Mental Health and Resiliency

Discover the foundation for building solid mental health and resiliency.

Feeling super stressed? Worried about a friend's mental health—or your own? Get tips to help manage your emotions and see what to do if you are in crisis.

Healthy Minds

Healthy Minds is a new blog for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

Mental Health

Children and adolescents thrive in today’s world, despite the many challenges they face. Fostering positive relationships, developing resiliency as a response to adversity, and increasing the capacity to cope are essential elements of good mental health. Adults play a critical role in fostering assets that lead to positive mental health in children.

The Fairfax County Youth Survey provides a wealth of information about a variety of topics related to our youth, from sleep and nutritional habits to protective factors and risk factors that influence their physical and mental well being. In addition, substance abuse behaviors and symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings are reported. The survey has identified the following assets as being associated with reduced symptoms of depression in youth: participation in extracurricular activities, volunteering, following rules, practicing problem-solving skills, and accepting responsibility for behaviors and choices.


Resiliency is the capacity to overcome adversity by responding in healthy and productive ways to successfully meet life’s challenges. Fairfax County Public Schools believes that all youth have the capacity for resilience. We believe it is important for our schools, families, and communities to provide needed supports for youth that foster resiliency to support them now and in the future. Building resiliency in our youth is critical to their ultimate success and enjoyment in life.

Resiliency Wheel identifying six resiliency buildersOne model for fostering resiliency in youth is the Resiliency Wheel developed by Nan Henderson, founder of Resiliency in Action. The wheel identifies six resiliency builders, or external protective factors, that can be provided by schools, families, and communities that mitigate risk factors and build resiliency. Research has shown these six resiliency builders to be effective in helping our youth successfully meet the stress and challenges they face in their lives. The more resiliency builders set in place in a youth’s life, the higher likelihood that youth will respond to challenges with resiliency. Above all else, it is vital that youth have at least one caring, trusted, and supportive adult relationship in building resiliency.

Six Resiliency Builders

1. Increase pro-social bonding

  • Providing youth with positive connections with their peers and adults. Positive bond with at least one caring, trusted, and supportive adult.
  • Cooperative peer-to-peer connections. 
  • Participation in extracurricular activities.

2. Set clear, consistent boundaries

  • Providing youth with clear rules on the expectations of behavior.
  • Collaboratively designing clear behavioral expectations.
  • Knowledge of developmentally appropriate expectations.
  • Appropriate and consistent consequences.

3. Teach life skills

  • Providing youth with the independent skills needed to navigate through the challenges of life, including social, problem-solving, and coping skills.
  • Making healthy choices.
  • Appropriate modeling of pro-social behavior.

4. Provide caring and support

  • Providing youth unconditional positive regard, encouragement, and kindness.
  • Celebrations of successes.
  • Sense of community belonging.

5. Set and communicate high expectations

  • Providing youth with the understanding that they can be successful.
  • Goal setting.
  • Positive thinking and belief in oneself.
  • Plan for educational and vocational endeavors.

6. Provide opportunities for meaningful participation

  • Providing youth with the responsibility and chance to demonstrate their competence and eagerness to contribute.
    • Collaborative voice in decision-making.
    • Community service and volunteering.
    • Leadership roles.