Resilience Enhancing Program for Youth Survivors of the Beslan School Hostage-Taking

  • Stefan VetterEmail author


The program was developed in response to the needs of the child and youth survivors of the 2004 Beslan school hostage-taking who remained psychologically and socially impaired after 2 years of therapy and support. The project was designed to provide resilience enhancement and development, research having shown that building resilience among survivors of high-risk environments can help develop and maintain social competence, empathy, caring, problem-solving skills, critical and creative thinking, task mastery and a sense of purpose and social connectedness.

The intervention was delivered through week-long mountain camps during school holidays to avoid disruption of participants’ education. It was considered beneficial to briefly remove children from their family environment, the behavior of family members often being found to be a factor in sustaining a child’s failure to recover.

The week-long program set out to deliver four protective factors shown to be effective in enhancing resilience in children and young people: (a) healthy attachments to related and unrelated older adults who provide them with support, encouragement, and guidance; (b) healthy and connected peer relationships; (c) effective problem-solving skills and coping strategies; and (d) community involvement, in support of the common good. In addition, cognitive-behavioral elements were provided to address learned helplessness, self-handicapping strategies, and social biases.

Delivery was achieved through a combination of sports/mountain activities and related safety training: (a) medical first aid, cardiopulmonary reanimation (CPR), and lifesaving rescue techniques; (b) mountaineering and survival skills training; (c) alpine sport activities, such as skiing, climbing and alpine hiking; and (d) informal arts, play, and supportive discussion groups.

Using the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), intervention participants showed statistically significant increases in resilience at the end of the 1-week session and at 6 month follow-up, with 6-month CD-RISC scores close to those of normal peers.


Posttraumatic stress disorder Beslan Russia Hostage Terrorism Children Resilience enhancement Mountain sports Skiing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Rehabilitation ResearchUniversity Hospital of Psychiatry ZurichRheinauSwitzerland

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