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Helping Your Team to Build Resilience

Date:Monday July 8, 2024

Resilience is the quality of being able to return strong after a negative experience. Some people naturally bounce back from difficulty or trauma, but there are also plenty of ways to improve resilience in your team by creating a supportive, safe work culture that encourages growth and taking time to reflect.


As a leadership team member at your agency, the key is to avoid conflating resilience with some of the more traditional definitions of toughness. Being “tough” is often quite prized in first responder cultures, and it certainly helps in the hardest moments of a job. However, resilience is not just in-the-moment, but long-term: the ability to healthily think through, seek resources for, and cope with challenges rather than letting tension silently build up over time because of accumulated trauma.


Resilience is also different from basic optimism; even naturally pessimistic people can choose to find the key positive elements of a situation necessary to process their experiences and move forward proactively. Positive reframing and other resilience strategies aren’t meant to ignore every challenge, but rather to allow individuals to step out of the negative mental ruts they can end up stuck in, seeing both the positive and negative for a more balanced view.


Some ways you can encourage resilience in your team may include:

  • Working with mental health professionals who specialize in helping first responders after traumatic incidents. Making this a standard part of the work experience when certain events occur can also be helpful, making it an experience that team members have to opt out of if they really don’t want to participate, rather than having to opt in proactively.
  • Giving first responders time and space to reflect on their experiences and evaluate whether they have unmet mental health needs.
  • Periodically offering seminars on positive reframing, reflection exercises, and how to build a trustworthy team, all of which can help your team trust each other and find a way forward after challenges.


Mental health professionals can help you analyze the specific situation in your agency, since different first responder teams have distinct challenges to address. You also might start by having candid one-on-one conversations with members of your team, since the obstacles to resilience on your team may be different than you would initially assume.


If this seems like a lot of work to build something abstract like resilience, remember that resilience is a concrete component of retaining your employees. If your employees are prone to burnout or ongoing tension as a result of unresolved trauma, they are less likely to persist in this career path. Investing in their mental health and ability to move forward after challenges is key to filling your leadership roles with experienced team members over time.


Resources for Promoting Resilience:


  • “Supporting the Mental Health and Well-Being of First Responders from Career to Retirement: A Scoping Review” (Prehospital and Disaster Medicine) Read more here
  • “Stress, Prevention, and Resilience among First Responders” (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)  Read more here

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