Why highly resilient people still need to enhance resilience
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I recently read a compelling about a Navy Seal commander, Cmdr Job W. Price, who committed suicide in Afghanistan in December 2012. Navy Seals are among the most resilient people I know. They are selected for their resilience and receive extensive training designed to maintain what the military often calls hardiness or grit. Yet, after losing four members of his team, months of over work, being isolated by his command position, and feeling the impact of the death of Afghani children, Cmdr Price’s resilience had eroded so much that it became a mental health condition that lead to his death.
In the article, I could see that Price displayed behaviors that are common characteristics of low resilience including an inability to sleep, becoming isolated, persistent illness, and moodiness. Well meaning senior leaders reminded Cmdr Price that he needed to sleep, eat well, and exercise but did not suggest other activities that are necessary to enhance resilience. Colleagues noticed Cmdr Price’s troubling behavior and repeated asked if he was ok, but Price always responded that he was fine. No one delved deeper to help Price recognize how far his resilience had slipped or urged him to seek mental health treatment, including medical professionals treating his physical ailments.
Cmdr Price’s death was a tragedy that reminds us that even the most resilient people can lose that resilience under the right circumstances and we all must constantly work to enhance our resilience to counter the significant emotional events we face. Those of us in high threat and dangerous environments, particularly those in leadership positions who are responsible for the lives of people on their teams, need to be particularly attentive to maintaining our personal resilience. We also need to seek mental health care more quickly and encourage colleagues and teammates to seek care when we see signs of low resilience that may become a mental health condition if left unaddressed. America lost a hero in 2012, but we can honor Cmdr Price by taking resilience seriously, learning from his life, and helping others seek the care they need so we don’t lose anymore heroes.
How does this story of our SEAL colleague’s death impact you? How can we remain vigilant of the cumulative impact of demands on our own resilience (and of others) while in the midst of trying circumstances?