Human resilience and human vulnerability

Track: Case presentation

Contributions from the mental health field



Waltraud Schönhart Special cases – practical psychoanalytic work in untypical fields


Brigitte Sindelar, Sigmund Freud Private University Vienna Paris Berlin Ljubljana Milano (SFU)


There is no health without mental health. Declarations of WHO express concern that the disease burden from mental disorders in Europe is not diminishing and that many people with mental health problems do not receive the treatment and care they need, despite the development of effective interventions. Mental well-being is moving into the focus of preventative health care involving much more than mental well-being of individuals: statistics of WHO point out the social and economic dimension by reporting neuropsychiatric disorders as the second frequent cause (19,5 %) for disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) after cardiovascular diseases (22,9 %), but more frequent than malignant neoplasms (11, 4 %). Forecasts expect depression in the first place of diseases in mankind by 2020.

These facts are forcing the need to observe resilience and protective factors for mental health that act as buffering moderators between adverse environmental conditions and a satisfying adjustment outcome on one hand and risk factors that increase vulnerability of mental health on the other.

Psychotherapy Science and Psychology are equipped with research findings on resilience and skilled in mental health care. To widespread this knowledge means to supply guidelines for constructive ways of living for the benefit of every single person and all humanity.

From its early beginning psychotherapy marked experiences of early childhood responsible for cognitive, emotional and social development and therefore the adult personality embedded from the family to world society. This opens a wide field to apply knowledge of psychotherapy science and psychology with a long-term perspective on the goal of a flourishing and thriving of humanity as a whole: to transfer information about mental health development means boosting parental, nursery and educational competences serving primary prevention of mental health disorders.

But the field of benefiting from psychotherapy science and psychology is even larger: Sharing information needs skills in information processing on one side, clear communication on the other side. The necessity of information processing skills that shape literacy is not decreased by the communication networks but add a new demand: we have to be aware that weaknesses in literacy, in language competences close the door to information more than ever, bearing the risk of a new “analphabetism” that expels people of low literate competence from community life, reduces their chances on the job market and by that strikes them into a risk group of a social ticking time bomb, vulnerable for being misled by destructive forces. At the same time the tools of information society demand a new kind of competence from users to find the balance between sharing information and protecting privacy as well as to handle those facilities without getting caught in new mental disorders like internet or online-gaming addiction – a special situation of risk for adolescents.

Furthermore we have to be aware that peaceful and constructive cooperation needs proper communication. We do know that communication is not only a matter of exchanging words but is always loaded with emotional issues, carried by voice melody, intonation as well as by non-verbal signs. And cooperation is taking place in an intersubjective relational space driven by shared intentions of the collaborators whose target in common is community feeling instead of hostility, supportive prevention of destructive conflicts instead of permanent and ongoing urgent need for cure of failed humanity.