Being exposed vicariously to traumatic events, for example by listening to catastrophic testimonies, may generate some of the same trauma reactions that would occur if you were involved in a serious incident. You may struggle to manage your emotions, have problems in your relationships, find decision-making difficult, have physical problems (aches and pains, illnesses), feel hopeless, think your life has no meaning, or experience a collapse in self-esteem.
It is important to develop strategies to cope with situations that might cause vicarious trauma-reactions. What helps you to take your mind off your work or your thoughts? How can you rest your body as well as your mind? Does an activity inspire you or put you in a better mood?
For many local helpers, there may often not be any support or resources at all to deal with this. If possible, meet regularly with other helpers to discuss your experiences and feelings, or do things together and take advantage of the guidelines and tools listed here.
Guidelines for the prevention and management of vicarious trauma among researchers of sexual and intimate partner violence
Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) 2015
These guidelines outline recommendations for the prevention of, and response to, vicarious trauma in researchers working in the field of sexual and intimate partner violence but can also be of use and relevance to those researching other sensitive topics including other forms of gender based violence.
The Pan American Health Organization/WHO, Cyralene P. Bryce 2001
This workbook (26 p) describes the SMID concept (Stress Management in Disasters in the Caribbean), a “comprehensive, peer-driven, multi-component stress management program which is administered on a volunteer basis and was designed to prevent and to mitigate the psychological dysfunction which exposure to traumatic situations like disasters may cause in emergency response personnel. The program is based on the principles of crisis intervention and critical incident stress management and it is not intended to take the place of professional therapy”.
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. All rights reserved.
Following the programme, staff reported significant reductions in role ambiguity, and improvements in the nature of their work, personal relationships with colleagues and superiors and physical conditions in the workplace. There were no significant differences in reported organisational structure or job satisfaction. This evaluation of a grassroots programme, designed to address the expressed needs of displaced staff, suggests that reductions in daily living stresses can be achieved even in the context of ongoing crisis.
The Pan American Health Organization/WHO, Bryce 2001
This workbook (80 p) is together with the workbook mentioned above, to describe the SMID concept. Both workbooks were designed to provide the basic training material for persons who will provide help for the helpers.
Caring for volunteers
IFRC Psychosocial Centre 2012
A new “Caring for Volunteers, a Psychosocial Support Toolkit,” will help National Societies not only prepare volunteers but also support them during and after disasters, conflicts and other dramatic events. The toolkit contains practical tools for preparing for and handling crises, as well as for peer support and communication. In addition, there is a chapter on how to monitor and evaluate volunteers’ efforts. Some of the tools can be printed out for managers in the field and for volunteers.
Manual on human rights monitoring – trauma and self care
Vicarious trauma refers to the negative reactions that can occur when hearing about someone else’s traumatic experiences. Human rights defenders and officers are at risk of vicarious trauma when they interview victims of human rights violations and hear stories of their suffering.
Secondary Traumatic Stress
Each year more than 10 million children in the United States endure the trauma of abuse, violence, natural disasters, and other adverse events. These experiences can give rise to significant emotional and behavioural problems that can profoundly disrupt the children’s lives and bring them in contact with child-serving systems. For therapists, child welfare workers, case managers, and other helping professionals involved in the care of traumatized children and their families, the essential act of listening to trauma stories may take an emotional toll that compromises professional functioning and diminishes quality of life.
Self-Care Assessment Worksheet
This assessment tool provides an overview of effective strategies to maintain self-care. After completing the full assessment, choose one item from each area that you will actively work to improve. Another example of post month assessment sheet.
Managing Stress in the Field
An IFRC Psychosocial Centre leaflet designed for delegates and field workers before, during and after their mission. Its aim is to help them to recognize, prevent and reduce stress in situations of complex humanitarian disaster.
Online Training Programs
The Headington Institute provides also some other very good online training courses to download/do online.
Managing stress in humanitarian workers
Antares Foundation 2012
The organization provides here with some “guidelines for good practice”, with 8 principles defining how the helpers should be guided and supported.
Professional Quality of Life Elements Theory and MeasurementStamm et al. 2010
This test provides with material to estimate the impact, the possible burnout or compassion fatigue in the helpers in disaster.
The Concise ProQOL Manual 2012
The background material and statistics in a manual (55 p.) for the ProQOL test mentioned above.