Occupational Hazard – secondary trauma at work

I don’t watch much TV, but yesterday I caught 2 interviews that moved me.

The first was a politician in local government who had taken up the cause over the last 2 years, of numerous people who had been sexually abused as children.

The second was a firefighter – one of the first responders to the London Underground on July 7th, 2005.

Q : What could these 2 men living at opposite ends of the country, have in common?
A : Both of them were in a state of post traumatic stress as a result of the work they do.

 

So often we think of ‘trauma’ as being connected with things that happen in personal lives. Maybe abuse…or being a direct victim in a horrific life-threatening experience.

Enduring FreedomWe understand that the military are exposed to traumatic situations in their ‘day job’ when they head to the front line. Sadly, many people still think PTSD is only really associated with war veterans.

However, there are so many professionals doing jobs that require them to put themselves in the line of life-threatening danger… Or require them to deal with horrific scenes…. Or get their heads around the details of the worst of society.

The TV interviewer made some comments about people not really thinking of a politician developing PTSD and co-morbid depression through his work. And maybe there are many other jobs that people don’t think could lead into the muddy pit of PTSD.

For example, would people outside of education think that those working closely with families and children in main stream schools could be at risk of secondary trauma?

Infact, do those INSIDE those very same, local, down-the-end-of-my-road, mainstream primaries have any concept of how this is increasingly becoming an occupational hazard?

As anyone who has heard me speak about this will know…Secondary Trauma, or Vicarious Trauma is real and powerful.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAALQAAAAJDlkYTY4OTRhLTRhMWItNDU0MS1hYmY0LWZmM2Q0NDZjZDRmNAFlashbacks, poor sleep, altered moods, increased aggression, depression, tension, trouble concentrating, relationship break downs, addiction, not being able to switch off and be fully present away from work, needing to talk over and over about things, or not speaking at all, are just a few possible symptoms.

Child & family support workers, mentors, inclusion teams, TAs, LSAs, teachers, heads, deputies, child protection officers, therapists… anyone who gets close to children and families and their stories, are all at risk.

The impact of trauma is huge – some are calling it an epidemic in our time.

Around the world, military are increasingly being prepared: being educated, being helped to build their resilience and being equipped with tools to reduce the impact of trauma on their bodies and minds BEFORE they go to the field.

 

18668_77-bomb-memorial-bombing-terror-London

Today is the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London.

It’s a wild and ‘out-there’ kind of thought I know, but wouldn’t it be amazing, as part of the positive legacy of that and all the other events that have taken or altered so many lives here in UK, for all workers in jobs where they are at risk of secondary trauma, to get the education they need to be fully aware and the equipping with tools that really work, to help them be ready and to minimize their risk of developing PTSD from their day-job?

 

‘You can say I’m a dreamer…. ‘

…but it feels like the right thing to do.

The honoring thing for employers to offer,

….and the wisest economic decision too.

 

I’m proud to be working with schools choosing to journey in this very direction. It’s a start!