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Exercise Your Resilience Muscle: Research Tool Surveys Mental Health During COVID-19

Published on April 9, 2020 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months 3 weeks ago


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Ran Barzilay, MD, PhD, is researching the effects of resilience on mental well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Nancy McCann

Individuals of all ages and population sectors are feeling the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. In order to flatten the deadly curve of COVID-19, “stay in place” directives are in effect in locations all over the globe. From the trials of working at home, to virtual school, unemployment, food insecurity, and more — worries abound. So how are we handling the stresses of our new “normal,” since COVID-19 came knocking on our doors, uninvited?

Ran Barzilay, MD, PhD, child psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and assistant professor at the Lifespan Brain Institute (LiBI), believes the COVID-19 pandemic is a time for people to exercise resilience, and a time for scientists to study resilience — the ability to overcome adversity — in large populations throughout the world in the face of a single stressor affecting humankind.

The LiBI research team, a collaboration of CHOP and University of Pennsylvania scientists under the guidance of Raquel Gur, MD, PhD, director of LiBI, developed an online survey to investigate the moderating effect of risk factors (i.e., emotion dysregulation, negative relationships) and resilience factors (i.e., self-reliance, positive relationships) on mental health and sleep during this unprecedented time.

“We need to think of resilience as a muscle,” said Dr. Barzilay, who is also faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “The more you activate this ‘resilience muscle,’ the stronger it becomes.”

The research team created the online survey as a research tool to collect cross sectional data on resilience-related parameters and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and concurrent mental health and sleep parameters. They will use baseline risks and resilience factors to predict anxiety and sleep at later points during and after the pandemic. The study is open to anyone over age 8.

Take the Survey, Get Instant Results

The 10-minute survey is available on a newly launched website, and it contains questions about resilience, emotions, and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on their responses, participants will receive immediate personalized feedback regarding their resilience profile and suggestions regarding their current mental health and sleep. They also have the option to participate in follow-up surveys.

By establishing a registry of participants who are willing to be contacted in the future, Dr. Barzilay plans to investigate how COVID-19 related stress affects groups of people over time, as well as the genetic basis of resilience.

“We expect the results to shed light on how and why some people manage to overcome adversity, while others struggle and develop stress-related disorders,” Dr. Barzilay said. “Better understanding of the mechanisms of resilience may reveal targets for mental health remediation and preventative psychiatry.”

There’s More to It

The research team’s interest in resilience and its relationship to COVID-19 goes beyond research — they also want to help.

“For us, it’s not just a research opportunity,” Dr. Barzilay said. “We feel it is our ethical obligation to do what we can to study resilience and try to enhance it. Because it is such a difficult time for everyone, now is the opportunity to exercise resilience. And remember, COVID-19 is new for all of us. Knowing we are not alone and that we share a common and stressful experience is important to keep in mind.”

Take the survey to find out how you’re coping with the stressor of COVID-19. If this survey link does not work, please try copying and pasting the following URL into your browser: