Resilience – Lessons from the Thai Boys Trapped in the Cave
Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin (Dr Tee) and Dr Mark Berelowitz recently gave a major presentation at the International Conference of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, about the ‘boys in the cave’ and about the lessons we can learn from how they coped with their experience.
Tee, who is also a former Minister of Education and a former Senator in Thailand, has met the boys. He speaks about how they perceived their experience, how they supported one another, how they coped during and after their time in the cave, and about how their experience and their ways of coping relate to the values and culture of their society.
Mark (who is a Consultant Child Psychiatrist at the Royal Free in London, and whose current passion is promoting the wellbeing of young people) speaks about contemporary concepts of resilience and about how in Western literature our current models of resilience seem to focus exclusively on individuals and not on society. Mark and Tee together propose ideas about what would make for a healthy, caring and resilient society, and how to bring this about.
Their ideas combine both ancient wisdoms, such as the core principles of Buddhism and Stoicism, as well as contemporary neuroscience.
Overall, they advocate, for both societies and individuals, a mix of short-term realism and long term optimism, when we are faced with adversity. This applies whether one is dealing with personal issues such as marital breakdown or illness, or shared societal problems such economic or geopolitical adversity.
They argue against a “winner takes all” approach and draw on the thinking of contemporary philosophers about what makes for a just and sustainable society.
Both Tee and Mark have been awarded the Gusi Peace Prize for 2019, for their humanitarian work.