In the digital silence, the toll of vicarious trauma quietly resonates. Each keystroke can be a reminder of the empathy that binds yet burdens.
Mohammad Fuaz Khan
A new training session offered by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network in St. John’s on Feb. 7 aimed to empower community workers to cope with “vicarious trauma.”
Vicarious trauma, also known as secondary trauma or compassion fatigue, refers to the emotional and psychological toll experienced by individuals who are exposed to the traumatic experiences of others, often as part of their professional roles.
Unlike primary trauma, which directly affects the individual experiencing the traumatic event, vicarious trauma occurs indirectly through witnessing or hearing about the suffering of others. This prolonged exposure to others’ trauma can lead to symptoms such as heightened stress, emotional exhaustion, feelings of powerlessness, and a diminished sense of well-being.
Frontline workers, such as health-care professionals, social workers and emergency responders are particularly vulnerable to vicarious trauma due to their frequent exposure to distressing situations.
Led by Paula Delahunty, addictions coordinator at Eastern Urban NL Health Services, the recent session focused on introducing frontline workers to the concepts of vicarious trauma and providing them with practical tools to cope with its impact.
The session, held at the Provincial Learning Centre on Charter Ave., offered participants an interactive learning experience. Through discussions led by a knowledgeable facilitator, participants gained awareness and practical skills to manage the challenges they faced in their roles.
One effective tactic for managing vicarious trauma is practising self-care techniques regularly. This may include engaging in activities that promote relaxation and stress relief, such as mindfulness meditation, exercise, hobbies or spending time in nature.
By prioritizing self-care, frontline workers can replenish their emotional reserves, mitigate the impact of vicarious trauma and enhance their overall resilience in coping with the challenges of their roles.
“The importance of addressing vicarious trauma cannot be overstated, especially in roles where workers are constantly exposed to difficult and emotionally taxing situations,” Delahunty said.
Emily Dyer, the communications and training coordinator at the Housing and Homelessness Network, emphasized the need for proactive support.
“Our goal was to equip frontline workers with the necessary tools and resources to not only excel in their roles but also maintain their well-being,” said Dyer.
Attendees of previous sessions expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn practical coping strategies.
“Understanding vicarious trauma and having strategies to manage it has been invaluable in my work,” said participant John Stevely.
Following the success of this training session, the Housing and Homelessness Network plans to continue offering similar workshops and resources to support frontline workers. The organization recognizes the ongoing need for education and support in managing vicarious trauma and aims to expand its reach to reach more communities and individuals in need.
Additionally, ongoing research and evaluation are crucial in refining and adapting vicarious trauma management strategies to meet the evolving needs of frontline workers. By staying informed about best practices and emerging trends, organizations can ensure that their support initiatives remain effective and responsive to the challenges faced by those in demanding roles.
The training session aimed to enhance the well-being and resilience of frontline workers, recognizing their invaluable contribution to communities. By equipping them with the necessary tools to address vicarious trauma, organizations strive to foster a supportive and sustainable workforce.