man with hands over head with sun peeking through, stressed from vicarious trauma experienced in his workplace
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The Impact of Vicarious Trauma: Mental Health In The Workplace

                                                                               *Contains Sensitive Content*
 
  We may be therapists, social workers, doctors, paramedics, police officers dealing with trauma response daily. Or maybe we are the family/friend/partner of someone who just went through a traumatic experience. Vicarious Trauma tends to stem from the workplace. Seeing and listening to their hurt can take a real toll. Different than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is an emotional, psychological, and spiritual effect of caring for a traumatized person. This is experience has been labeled by psychologists as Vicarious Trauma.

What is Vicarious Trauma in the Workplace?

First identified in the 80’s, Vicarious Trauma was defined as the “cost of caring”. Vicarious Trauma is a secondhand traumatization and stressor that can manifest both mentally and physically. Some describe Vicarious Trauma as straining empathy and compassionate burnout, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and more. Vicarious Trauma is highly reported in the workplace. Mainly in first responders, community workers, and mental health professionals; Especially those who work in communities with high rates of trauma and crime.
 
Between 40% and 85% of helping professionals develop vicarious trauma from their workplace, according to expert Francoise Mathieu. Vicarious Trauma may also affect individuals after a traumatic event makes news stories or goes viral on social media. This could look like a teacher having sleepless nights after a school shooting occurred. It is common that teachers dread going to work after a school shooting, due to spiking anxiety and fear for themselves and for their students.
 
Being a professional trauma responder or caregiver exposes you to so much emotional and psychological stressors. There truly is a cost for caring in these workplaces. There are extremely high rates of burnout, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and fear reported among these professions. More severely, suicidal ideation. So, it is important to address Vicarious Trauma in the workplace to prevent taking your work home with you.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Vicarious Trauma in the Workplace:

1. Self Care

If you are working in a profession that deals with trauma response, or are the loved one supporting a traumatized person, you could experience Vicarious Trauma. Taking care of others in need may be your priority, but never forget to take care of yourself too. Implementing a self-care routine will be effective in reducing symptoms of Vicarious Trauma. Doing whatever makes you feel cared for is important. Whether that is lighting candles for your bath and putting on a face mask, or watching your comfort show with your favorite take out meal. Make the time to tend to yourself. Give yourself the care you need to process any Vicarious Trauma you are experiencing.

2. Finding moments of joy and ceremony before/after work

If you are dealing with vicarious trauma, find moments of ceremony before, during, or after work. This could look like riding your bike to the office everyday if that is something you enjoy. Or, if you love fashion, try styling your business attire to help you feel your best. You could stop at your favorite coffee shop on the way to the office or walk through the neighboring park on your lunch break. On your own or with your favorite co-worker! Sometimes, it is the little things that can help make a big difference.

3. Speaking to a therapist

It is so important to have support after experiencing trauma. Speaking to a mental health professional is a crucial part od coping with any anxiety, fear, trouble sleeping, mental/physical fatigue, or burnout. Healed and Educated offers both group and individual therapy, where your therapist will evaluate your case and collaborate with you to design a treatment plan. If you live in NC, we got you covered. If you live outside of NC, we encourage you to find an in-state provider to guild you on a path to healing.

Sources:

Fact sheet: Vicarious trauma definition of vicarious trauma … – CDCR. (n.d.-a). https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/bph/wp-content/uploads/sites/161/2021/10/Trauma-Fact-Sheets-October-2021.pdf 

Olgaphoenix.com. (n.d.). https://olgaphoenix.com/blog/painful-truths-about-vicarious-trauma-statistics-from-the-field/ 

Roberts, C., Darroch, F., Giles, A., & van Bruggen, R. (2022, December). You’re carrying so many people’s stories: Vicarious trauma among fly-in fly-out mental health service providers in Canada. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8925925/ 

Vicarious trauma and its influence on self-efficacy. (n.d.-b). https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/article_2721c024f16116603abcacff0000bee5e7.pdf?sfvrsn=6 

RESOURCES

1. For Employees

Mental Health resources for employees (Mental Health America): https://www.mhanational.org/workplace/mental-health-for-employees

2. For Employers

Mental Health resources for employers (Mental Health America): https://www.mhanational.org/workplace/mental-health-for-employers

The Author: Amanda Morgan

       This article was written by Amanda Morgan. Any questions concerning the article should be emailed to anmorgs16@gmail.com

Amanda Morgan

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