Introduction and Purpose

With support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Maine Emergency Management Agency, the Town of Scarborough, Maine, is undertaking the ambitious project of building and maintaining the resilience of its citizens. The community will work closely with Maine Resilience, a program of Alpha One, the Independent Living Center for the State of Maine.

The project’s goal over the next two years is to expand and strengthen community preparedness by teaching the skills and the attitudes of resilience that create mental toughness and the ability to bounce back from adversity.

The Town, in collaboration with Maine Resilience, is implementing a train-the-trainer program for the employees and citizens of Scarborough. This program seeks to develop and train individuals and groups in skills of personal preparedness and resiliency that will enable them to respond to natural or manmade disasters, traumatic events, and other adversarial situations.

Scarborough town and school department personnel and community members will develop a network of trainers who are committed to learning and sharing the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and strategies necessary to assist with coping and managing hardship and traumatic encounters.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the process of coping with and managing tragedy and crisis. It is “bouncing back” from hard times, whether these be national disasters, such as the current financial crisis, a hurricane, or a terrorist attack or personal disasters such as bankruptcy, divorce, or the death of a loved one. Research since 9/11 suggests that resilience may be much more common than we thought.

Resilience is not inherited, but learned. Whether we believe that there will be another 9/11-like event, we would all agree that there will be natural disasters and probably no shortage of them. Hurricanes, ice storms, floods, and tornadoes are likely to be more frequent in the immediate future. And life has no shortage of personal disasters. The current recession has touched everyone. Death and taxes come to us all. We know, through research, that the skills and attitudes of resilience, mental toughness, can be learned and applied and can assist individuals in adapting to and surviving difficult times.

Studies show that training in resilience may reduce the frequency and intensity of post-traumatic stress disorders. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist, and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues have developed and are now implementing a program of training for the U.S. Army. Similar training may allow our society and the individuals and families affected directly by a disaster to recover more quickly and completely. Just as we know that reinforcing a bridge may make it stronger and less likely to be washed away by a flood, we now know that reinforcing an individual’s coping skills, their resilience, can make it less likely that they will be overwhelmed, washed away, in the same flood.