A Multisystemic Model for Positive Development in Stressed Environments


Location: Virtual

Sponsored by:

NIMH Division of Extramural Affairs

On January 14, 2021, Michael Ungar, Ph.D., founder and director of the Resilience Research Centre and Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, will be the guest speaker in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Director’s Innovation Speaker Series, which focuses on innovation, invention, and scientific discovery.

Using examples from his research and clinical practice, Dr. Ungar will explore the nature of young people’s patterns of resilience in contexts where children and adolescents are affected by social marginalization, migration, violence, and mental disorder. His work is demonstrating that resilience can be assessed with sensitivity to culture and context, identifying factors that are most likely to have the greatest impact on behavioral outcomes at different levels of risk exposure. Dr. Ungar’s program of research provides support for an ecological, culturally sensitive interpretation of what resilience means to young people who experience extreme forms of adversity.

In this lecture, Dr. Ungar will show that resilience results from both individual abilities to overcome adversity and the capacity of social and physical ecologies, including mental health care providers, to help young people navigate and negotiate their way to the resources they need to build and sustain well-being. Finally, aspects of hidden resilience (maladaptive coping) will be discussed as reasonable ways young people protect themselves from risk when growing up in challenging contexts.

Dr. Ungar is the former chair of the Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, executive board member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and a family therapist who continues to work with mental health services for individuals and families at risk. His international series of studies spans six continents and has changed the way resilience is understood, shifting the focus from individual traits to the interactions between individuals and their social, institutional, built, and natural environments, including health and social services.


NIMH established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in the development of scientific initiatives and programs, and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thinking. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their initial area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.


Online registration for this free event is required.

More Information:

NIMH will provide sign language interpreters. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations to participate in this program should contact the Federal Relay at 1-800-877-8339. Submit general questions to the NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series mailbox.

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Observability and Artificial Intelligence Have Become Essential to Managing Modern IT Environments

If you lead an IT, DevOps, or business operations team, you’re probably working on a digital transformation and cloud migration strategy. You’re also likely doing it with scarce resources under the strain of shifting market needs and accelerated customer demands.

Your organization’s success hinges on delivering differentiated, high-value digital experiences to customers and internal users. The applications and services that enable these experiences are built on multicloud environments that promise faster innovation and better business outcomes. But these dynamic environments also bring a scale, complexity, and frequency of change that have grown beyond humans’ capacity to manage.

The common approaches to monitoring these environments to build applications, optimize performance, and run operations are no longer effective. Just capturing data to display on a dashboard without providing automatic root-cause analysis or prioritizing discoveries by business impact just creates more noise than value.

Likewise, traditional tools and approaches are unable to automatically discover all services, processes, and interdependencies within a modern IT environment in real time, which results in blind spots. They also require manual configuration and instrumentation. Manual configurations may have worked in the era of on-premises data centers, but in the multicloud era, when applications and microservices come and go in seconds, manual efforts simply don’t scale and instead steal time from innovation.

AI and automation: the case for AIOps

To manage these complex, cloud-native environments and to save time and resources for developing new innovations that deliver business impact, teams need solutions that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and continuous automation to provide precise and intelligent answers.

A recent global survey of CIOs from large enterprises details why observability and AI for IT operations (AIOps) have become essential to managing modern IT environments:

  • Despite the challenges of 2020, or perhaps because of them, 89% of CIOs said their digital transformation has accelerated in the past 12 months, and 58% said this will speed up in the next year.
  • Seventy-four percent of surveyed CIOs reported they are already using cloud-native technologies, including microservices, containers, and Kubernetes, and 61% said these environments change every minute or less.
  • Even after investing in 10 different monitoring tools on average, IT teams have full observability into just 11% of their environments. And most often, the people who need access to these tools don’t have it.

AI and automation streamline processes and speed innovation

According to the same survey, 70% of CIOs said their teams spend too much time doing manual tasks that could be automated, yet only 19% of all repeatable IT processes have been automated. CIOs view AI assistance as a solution—93% said AI will be critical to their teams’ ability to cope with increasing workloads and deliver maximum value to the business.

To make the leap forward, companies are embracing AIOps. One example is ERT, a developer of the software and devices used by medical researchers in 75% of Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trials in 2019. As the company adopted a cloud-native architecture running on Kubernetes, the IT team realized it needed to automate its software development processes.

ERT’s teams now use one observability solution to monitor and automate DevOps processes and application delivery pipelines and to continuously watch for errors and degradation. Their AIOps solution automatically prioritizes any issues based on impact, saving developers time and ensuring they can find, understand, and resolve issues before they impact clinical trials. These processes have reduced from six to four weeks the time it takes ERT to deliver new applications, which means the company can help researchers get new, potentially lifesaving treatments out of the laboratory and into hospitals and pharmacies faster.

A single source of truth can drive cross-team collaboration and optimize user experience

To understand the impact of IT on business outcomes—including the significance of an outage, the value of a software update, or the level of customer engagement with a new feature or release—IT, DevOps, and business operations teams need a single source of intelligence that provides precise answers prioritized by business impact and with root-cause determination.

“As the pace of transformation accelerates, there’s no time for silos, guessing, or finger-pointing,” says Steve Tack, SVP product management at software intelligence company Dynatrace. “Imagine having all teams in your organization on the same page all the time, with everyone using a common language, collaborating across teams, and speeding toward better business outcomes. This is possible with a platform that provides automatic and intelligent observability.”

Tack pointed to footwear retailer Rack Room Shoes as one example of a company that transformed how its teams work by using a single source of software intelligence. As the company increased its investments in improving user experiences, its teams realized they needed to improve their understanding of how the performance of their new digital services impacted business key performance indicators, including e-commerce conversion rates and revenue. Their IT, developer, and business teams now rely on a single software intelligence platform to tie together data about their customers’ behavior with the applications they use and the cloud infrastructure on. As a result, the teams collaborate more effectively and optimize user experience more quickly, leaving 30% more time to focus on innovation, which has driven up their e-commerce conversions by 25%.

Automatic and intelligent observability transforms how digital teams work

Regardless of your industry, success depends on accelerating digital transformation to drive new revenue streams, manage customer relationships, and keep employees productive. To achieve this, organizations are investing in multicloud platforms and cloud-native technologies. To maximize the benefits of these investments and to eliminate silos separating teams, organizations are increasingly looking to observability, automation, and AI-powered insights to automate IT operations so they can innovate faster and deliver better results.

Click here to learn how Dynatrace simplifies cloud complexity and accelerates digital transformation.

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Start-ups are fast-moving hectic environments but don’t forget your people

Regardless of the size of your business, there are many considerations in the fast-moving start-up environment, including:

  • Getting the right people in key roles.
  • Obtaining reliable suppliers and stock.
  • Gaining a place in the market and securing customers or clients.
  • Having systems in place for IT, purchase, payment and warehousing and so on.

Something that should not be overlooked is the processes to take care of your staff and satisfy your duty of care.

This starts with having behavioural policies that detail the expectations of the workplace and misconduct.

Misconduct can be generally divided into two categories

1. Misconduct against a person:

  • Bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination.
  • Breach of Code of Conduct involving the above.

2. Misconduct against the organisation, breach of policy:

  • Social media.
  • Use of email, IT, internet.
  • Expenses.
  • Credit cards.
  • Travel.

It the fast-moving environment it is dangerous to assume that your new or inexperienced employees will understand the behavioural expectations of your organisation especially when it comes to interpersonal actions.

Start-up organisations can be caught off
guard and not knowing what to do when complaints are made.  Having your blood pressure go through the
roof at the mention of bullying or sexual harassment is very bad for your

Training is important

  • For staff to understand their behavioural requirements.
  • For managers to have the skills to manage staff and deal with complaints and misconduct.

In my experience, this sort of training is far too often put into the “we don’t have time for this” basket.

Why do managers need training to manage?

A manager may be very good at their jobs such as an IT Manager but have very little people skills. If they have had no training in this area the result can be bullying complaints or loss of valuable employees due to the new manger’s approach, tone, attitude, methods and general lack of people and communication skills.

I have seen this happen in start-ups where
the manager is employed or promoted to get the job done without consideration
of how they will interact and manage their people.

And what happens when an employee simply can cut it in the fast-moving start-up environment, are the managers equipped to have difficult conversations about performance?

What about the HR Manager?

HR Managers in start-ups may be working
alone. In addition to skills in recruiting, leadership development, policy
writing, developing and implementing HR strategies and initiatives aligned with
the overall business strategy they may be required to manage employee relations
issues such as grievances and complaints.

What is the priority, business strategy or
people issues?

Your employees must know that they can
trust the HR manager or their manager if they come to them with an issue.

Lesson for start-ups

  • Don’t forget your people.
  • Don’t put off having your behavioural policies in place.
  • Train your staff on the expectations.
  • Train your managers, give them the skills needed for people management, especially the difficult conversations.
  • Have a trusted and responsive reporting mechanism in place for workplace issues.
  • Train your HR department and managers in how to deal with employee issues such as bullying in the workplace efficiently and fairly.

Phil O’Brien, Principal, Australian Workplace Training and Investigation

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Early Studies Suggest Outdoor Environments Are Low Risk for COVID-19

It’s been a frustrating time to be a surfer for the past three months. When officials across the country began issuing shelter-in-place orders to head off an emerging pandemic, they simultaneously closed many public outdoor spaces to prevent crowding. Some beaches were closed, some were open only for exercise, others had parking restrictions but were otherwise wide open. Depending on where in the country you live, surfing was either outright banned, a major pain in the ass because of parking and access restrictions, or really no different at all.

The idea was simple: keep people from gathering on beaches where they can easily spread the virus. Because police and lifeguards weren’t really prepared to distinguish between surfing and general beach chilling, or just didn’t want to split hairs, at many beaches they just said: “nobody allowed.”

Surfers were perplexed. How were we supposed to be spreading a virus by surfing, some of us wondered, when we’re already social distancing and are outside in a UV-ray-bombarded environment inhospitable to the coronavirus? Epidemiologists, most of us are not, but we tried to apply common sense. Then, an article from the Los Angeles Times suggested coronavirus might easily spread in seafoam, and suddenly it seemed maybe there was danger.

Recent research, however, suggests our initial instincts had merit. Sort of.

A May 15, an article in the New York Times dove into studies around how the virus spreads—not simply how it can be dispersed into the air, but how it actually moves through the world in enough quantities to infect people—and, as it turns out, surfing seems relatively safe when respecting the common laws of social distancing.

The article cited a study of 7,300 cases in China in which researchers cataloged how the virus was caught. Only one of the cases involved someone catching the virus while outside, and it was after a prolonged conversation one-on-one with someone who had the virus, not from paddling around 10 to 15 feet away from someone who is sick.

“The risk is lower outdoors, but it’s not zero,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. “And I think the risk is higher if you have two people who are stationary next to each other for a long time, like on a beach blanket, rather than people who are walking and passing each other.”

You can see here the thinking that led to closed beaches, but it also makes it seem as though surfing is relatively safe, with the most basic of precautions taken. Bobbing right next to strangers or friends you don’t live with during long south swell sets is a bad idea right now, but that’s easily remedied with commonsensical distancing.

Erin Bromage, an infectious disease expert at the University of Massachusetts, wrote an article that’s recently drawn a great deal of media attention, summing up what he’s seen in researching the coronavirus and how other viruses spread, and outdoor recreation can be put at the bottom of his list of concerns.

Bromage points out that sneezing and coughing emit the most virus particles at once, which is bad news if you’re indoors in close proximity to someone hacking away, but it’s the prolonged contact and breathing in the same air that’s the big risk, and how we’ve seen the most spreading, by far. It’s people in nursing homes, churches, parties, business meetings. Close contact, continuous talking, and singing, etc., in which case continuous shedding of the virus lingers in air people breathe a whole lot of—this is what’s gonna get you sick.

One, or a few viruses or virus particles isn’t enough to cause infection, researchers say. You need enough virus that overwhelms the body’s immediate immune response, which requires either a concentrated dose of virus particles at once or being in the same space as someone who is constantly emitting the virus.

“The exposure to virus x time formula is the basis of contact tracing,” writes Bromage. “Anyone you spend greater than 10 minutes within a face-to-face situation is potentially infected. Anyone who shares a space with you (say an office) for an extended period is potentially infected.”

Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist, pointed out recently that being in water outdoors is a likely good place to be these days, in a NYT interview.

“In my opinion, pool water, freshwater in a lake or river, or seawater exposure would be extremely low transmission risk even without dilution (which would reduce risk further),” said Dr. Rasmussen. “Probably the biggest risk for summer water recreation is crowds—a crowded pool locker room, dock or beach, especially if coupled with limited physical distancing or prolonged proximity to others. The most concentrated sources of virus in such an environment will be the people hanging out at the pool, not the pool itself.”

Researchers have yet to dive into the specifics of how the virus that causes COVID-19 dilutes in seawater, but other coronaviruses typically don’t handle water well. We do know that UV light kills the virus quickly. Is there a chance that a surfer paddling ahead of you spits into the water, then you paddle through it, and pick up whatever virus particles they emitted? Sure. Which is where common sense comes in.

Give people some space in the lineup, which you should be doing anyway, and surfing sure looks like about as minimal risk as there can be. [… and surfing sure looks like a fairly safe outlet during these trying times.]

This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.

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