Vicarious trauma can be an outcome for those who are constantly exposed to traumatic material. Evidence shows people working in a trauma-based environment are greatly affected by the work they do, whether it is by:

• Direct exposure: seeing traumatic events
• Secondary exposure: hearing others talk about trauma they have experienced.

Understanding vicarious trauma and preventing it is a challenge. It’s important to know it’s not about weakness; it’s more about being human. Signs and symptoms include:

• Loss of faith in people, changes in personal beliefs and feeling hopeless or useless
• Fear for the safety of your own family, pets or possessions
• Viewing the world and the people in it as only good or only bad
• Intrusive thoughts, images or sensations related to violence
• Anxiety before, during, and/or after meeting with a client or family/community member
• Feeling annoyed, angry or frustrated at the people you are working with, or at the world in general, for no particular reason
• Changes in sleeping habits, including having nightmares
• Changes in eating habits, alcohol and/or cigarette use.

Preventing vicarious trauma

Strategies at work may include:

• Establish a wellbeing plan and share it with others. This may include identifying specific people to approach for help and support, including professional resources you can access.
• Use regular supervision and debriefing at work. If you don’t currently have supervision and debriefing, ask for it to be arranged.
• Include regular stress busters in every workday (eg: taking quick walks, stretching and deep breathing).
• When you find work too upsetting: Seek ways to reduce the direct contact you have with a client(s).
* Negotiate with colleagues and your supervisor about certain tasks that may feel bad for you
* Get others involved to help share the load
* Prioritize other minor work tasks to change your focus for a little bit
• Discuss work challenges with others who are doing the same sort of work. Be open to hearing the experience of others and what they do to reduce their pressure.
• Have very clear boundaries between your work life and your home life. Make sure other people are aware of these boundaries.
• Allow yourself to feel upset, angry or frustrated. Think about where you can express these feelings safely.
• Complete education/training to gain skills that equip you to do your job well

Personal Strategies

• Keep your body healthy by exercising.
• Eat a well-balanced diet.
• Get enough sleep and make time to relax.
• Have a personal life outside work with supportive, positive friends who bring you joy and laughter.
• Have clear boundaries with friends/family (eg: not talking about work topics in your time off).
• Find ways to be connected to your own spiritual fulfillment.
• Have some creative interests.
• Find ways to clear the mind, like connecting to Country.
• Look at other causes of stress in your life and try to reduce them.
• Limit your exposure to trauma stories (question whether it’s helpful to watch or listen to content that involves trauma).