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Developing resilience in the face of trauma

A photo of Dr James Erskine Dr James Erskine.

Extensive research has shownthat almost all individuals will experience at least one extremely traumatic event in their lifetime. These events are not trivial and are usually described as personally life threatening, or the loss of an immediate extremely close family relative, for example through death or divorce.

The fact that no one escapes varying degrees of trauma in life has led Dr James Erskine to formulate a research program that focuses on building human capacity to cope effectively and openly face these events. His current work focuses on building resilience in individuals in order to enable them to become cope better with the everyday stresses of life, as well as the larger traumatic events which people will almost invariably encounter as they move through life.

To that end, Dr Erskine has developed a resilience intervention in the form of a six-week programme designed to foster resilience and teach effective coping skills for a range of life situations. This programme has been trialled on a small group of doctoral St George’s students with extremely favourable feedback.

“I am currently in the process of writing an edited book on stress in the workplace with my own contribution focusing on chapters devoted to the human capacity to overcome adversity and attain a life of which they see as meaningful, engaged and contributory,” says Dr Erskine of his work. “I feel this work has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience both in the student body, workplace, NHS and general public.”

Dr Erskine has previously undertaken extensive public engagement work, giving many free talks to interested members of the public through the organisation Skeptics in the Pub. These talks regularly attract audiences of more than 100 people and are deliberately focused on bringing scientific and clinical knowledge to bear on issues of interest to the general public. As well as publishing academic work and presenting at international conferences, Dr Erskine’s work for a public audience includes writing for The Conversation and The Psychologist.


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