Mutual Aid and Resilience

Many communities facing crisis have had to find ways to support each other. After Hurricane María, a mutual aid movement emerged in Puerto Rico to address the basic needs of community members, such as food, shelter, healing, water and utilities. “Apoyo mutuo” has become a model for community-based crisis response. You can learn more about this movement from LALS doctoral student Juan Carlos Dávila’s reporting

Critical trans politics thinker Dean Spade has also written and presented about mutual aid as a social movement in his recent article “Solidarity Not Charity” and has also talked about how communities are using mutual aid principles to respond to COVID-19 on Democracy Now! Working with others, he maintains the Big Door Brigade website, which provides up-to-date information about mutual aid organizing around the US.

In mutual aid projects, community members organize themselves to take care of each other, checking in regularly, working together, and creating community agreements to make sure everyone is getting through a crisis. The links above will help you find mutual aid projects near you, or learn about this idea and start your own!

Make sure you are following CDC COVID-19 precautions whenever you engage in community work. The CDC also has precautions for community-based organizations on its website.

Resilience is the idea that people who experience challenges and hardships in life often develop the skills and wisdom to survive. Resilience is your ability to spring back after experiencing frustration and difficulty. This idea has influenced a lot of efforts to more holistically address the needs of college students and build resilience.

During the COVID-19 epidemic, a number of thinkers have started to apply their ideas about resilience to surviving this time. Some good resources to start with can be found here:

There are many online resources for building resilience. Mindfulness, affirmation, meditation, stillness, self-care, and compassion are important practices that help us get through difficult times, and are also great for our long-term well-being.


With a commitment to social justice and recognizing that institutional and structural barriers negatively impact the mental health and wellbeing of our campus community, a working group composed of faculty, staff, and students launched the Radical Resilience initiative in 2020. 

UC Santa Cruz consistently ranks highest for student stress, anxiety, suicide ideation, and drug use compared to other UC campuses. This is an issue of concern for both graduate and undergraduate students. Staff surveys consistently rank UC Santa Cruz low on satisfaction and employee engagement. Faculty also grapple with stress and anxiety personally but also in supporting students in their classrooms.

A growing body of evidence supports building resilience practices into learning environments as a foundational and complementary method for coping with stress, anxiety, and depression. Author, activist, and scholar, Loretta Pyles, in her book, Healing Justice: Holistic Self-Care for Change Makers, notes that self-care is an act of resistance to disconnection, marginalization, and internalized oppression. Transformative social practice is process-oriented social change and healing work seeking to alter existing political, economic, and social systems while also transforming individuals. Learning to take better care of and heal each other and ourselves with compassion and commitment, could pave the way for the transformation of our organizations, communities and the planet.

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