Resilience refers to the capacity for successful adaptation or change in the face of adversity. This concept has rarely been applied to the study of distress and depression. We propose two key elements of resilience - ordinary magic and personal medicine - which enable people to survive and flourish despite current experience of emotional distress. We investigate the extent to which these elements are considered important by a sample of 100 people, drawn from a longitudinal study of the management of depression in primary care in Victoria, Australia. We also assess how respondents rate personal resilience in comparison with help received from professional sources. Our data are obtained from semi-structured telephone interviews, and analysed inductively through refinement of our theoretical framework. We find substantial evidence of resilience both in terms of ordinary magic - drawing on existing social support and affectional bonds; and in terms of personal medicine - building on personal strengths and expanding positive emotions. There is a strong preference for personal over professional approaches to dealing with mental health problems. We conclude that personal resilience is important in the minds of our respondents, and that these elements should be actively considered in future research involving people with experience of mental health problems.