Survival

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We were all captivated by the story of Luke Shambrook, an 11 year old boy with autism, who wandered off from the Candlebark campground at around 9.30 am on Good Friday.

Sergeant Greg Paul from the Marysville station said Luke may not even know that he is considered lost.

“We honestly don’t know what his status is; whether he’s curled up sleeping somewhere or hiding or whether he would necessarily respond to us looking for him.”

When Luke was found unharmed on Tuesday, five days after his disappearance, we shared in the parent’s relief and thankfulness.

Luke’s mother, Rachel, said it was a stressful and traumatic weekend and as time went on with no trace of Luke, we began to lose hope he would be found alive.

She put her son’s survival down to his resilience and the prayers of many.

“He’s just shown us a side of him that we knew was there, his resilience has just blown us away,” she said.  (ABC News 07/04/2015)

But what is resilience?

Individual resilience has been described as “a person’s capacity or competence to adapt and respond positively to stressful situations.” (Glant & Johnson, 1999)

The reality is we don’t know how resilient we are until we encounter difficult circumstances. We don’t know how we would recover from or adjust to a life threatening illness, mental instability, financial ruin, a messy divorce, or a loved one’s suicide.

Psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, survived the Nazi death camps. He was uniquely placed to observe how people coped with traumatic experiences. Frankl’s most enduring insight was this:

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. You cannot control what happens in your life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

This is the essence of resilience, having the inner reserves to face difficult or traumatic life events.

Frankl noted in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and become subject to mental and physical decay.”

It has been suggested that the interaction between an individual’s resilience and their expectations of life can act to increase the likelihood of thoughts and behaviours about taking one’s own life.

Man's Search for Meaning

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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