SBHC GRAPEVINEJuly 8-14, 2013
Tragedy & ResiliencyFlowchart: Alternate Process: informed services for the National Council for Community Behavioral HealthCare in Washington, D.C.

By age 6, Sharp -- whose mother had schizophrenia and could be both loving and erratic – had endured multiple surgeries for kidney and bladder defects. She abused drugs and alcohol for several years. She first attempted suicide at age 13 and would try to take her own life eight more times before turning 24 and beginning what she calls a “journey to recovery.” 

Based on symptoms she exhibited at the time, Sharp was diagnosed with an array of disorders: schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, maFlowchart: Alternate Process: hood experiences, such as trauma, abuse and chronic stress, can prime the body to react to both  major hardship and everyday setbacks with the same degree of fear and panic. 

For Cheryl Sharp, 55, rebounding didn't come easily. Mental illness in her family and personal health problems at any early age turned her into someone who was prone to bouts of rage at the time. 

“Anything that was threatening, I would explode,” said Sharp, who is now a senior advisor for trauma-Flowchart: Alternate Process: Emerging research on the biology of resilience suggests a person’s ability to recover – or risk of spiraling into depression -- may depend on an elusive combination of early life experiences, genetics and brain chemistry. 

In fact, recovering from trauma or heartbreak is a far more complicated response than scientists once thought, says Dr. Farris Tuma, chief of the Traumatic Stress Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health. 

“This is the Holy Grail – to understand what makes people resilient,” Tuma said.

Social relationships, faith, health, and financial stability are factors in resilience, while negative child