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Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Roadmap of Trauma and Critical Incident Care

We can recover from acute stress and trauma injury, with the appropriate help and support. It may leave scars, but if processed those scars become engraved with understanding and wisdom. This wisdom can be used to help others in their recovery. The whisper of that wisdom comes across in every personal story shared in this book.

This book helps anyone whose work exposes them to trauma, whether directly or indirectly. It guides organisations in best practice duty of care for staff. It also helps those personally impacted by trauma or anyone supporting someone who is traumatised.

At the heart of this book are aid workers’ stories of overcoming traumatic incidents.

As a journalist turned aid worker, I thought I was used to dealing with difficult and sometimes traumatising news stories. I’ve spent years sitting in newsrooms sifting through uncut footage from bomb blasts in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria. As an editor it was also my job to watch the uncut versions of hostage videos sent from Islamic State or Al Qaeda. I’d also spent time in the field travelling to east Africa to cover stories on poverty, child marriage and malnutrition. I thought I was battle-hardened and could deal with almost anything, so when I was given the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone following the Ebola outbreak, I was keen to go. When I returned, I would find myself bursting into tears or be overcome with anger at the slightest thing. I felt constantly on edge, had difficulty sleeping and had awful vivid memories of specific events that would haunt me. It wasn’t until several months after I returned home that I admitted to myself I needed help.

Many of the stories in this book include individuals who have been attacked, shot at, kidnapped and survived sexual violence. Additionally, and just as importantly, there are stories of those who suffer the impact of cumulative stress and trauma.

I cannot say how much the shock of the explosion had on my stress, but the main stressor which resulted in what was later diagnosed as PTSD, from gradual build-up of stress, was caused by constant harassment from my boss.

For anyone taking care of others in their work becoming trauma informed and understanding Psychological First Aid (PFA) is needed now more than ever. At FD Consultants we are finding the critical incidents we manage are no longer one-off major events, but prolonged traumatic incidents that can last for several years such as, a pandemic, natural disasters, war and civil unrest. We discuss this further in our blog ‘Surviving the Longevity of Trauma’ https://fdconsultants.net/surviving-the-longevity-of-trauma/

We are assisting those deploying to Romania, Poland, and Ukraine to setup the humanitarian response for the Ukraine crisis. We are supporting teams of healthcare workers impacted by Coronavirus. We are also setting up PFA peer support programmes in Myanmar, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia.

Since the pandemic mental health is becoming more talked about in the workplace. Organisations are more aware of the impact of vicarious trauma on staff. We have found tech companies and journalists are reaching out for our services to support staff who are exposed to traumatic material online. Our blog ‘Preventing the Risk of Vicarious Trauma in the Workplace’ https://fdconsultants.net/preventing-the-risk-of-vicarious-trauma-in-the-workplace/ highlights the case where Facebook agreed to pay £42m to content moderators who suffered from PTSD when continuously reviewing traumatic material online as part of their work.

Our therapists at FD Consultants are trauma specialists. This means they are trained in EMDR and TF-CBT (recommended trauma approaches by NICE, WHO & APA). This book provides a detailed case study of both approaches and the transformation they offer to trauma recovery.

I will never forget the things I witnessed. They will always be part of me, but they no longer hold any control over me. When I think about them they seem in the past and no longer impact me in a negative way. As with any troubling event we always learn to take something from it. The treatment I received allowed me to do that, and rather than just blocking it out and trying to forget about it, I’ve been able to move forward and am stronger for it.

The book Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers will appeal to all those working in the field of humanitarian aid, counsellors and psychotherapists, emergency first responders, as well as those who are looking to support themselves after surviving trauma.

Trauma can lock us into a prison within ourselves, sometimes referred to as the enemy within. This book aims to break the silence of trauma, help to normalise trauma, and provide the reader with the confidence to be trauma informed. I also hope this book offers comfort, on the darkest days, for anyone who has experienced trauma, stress, burnout, compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma.

In writing this book, I hope to have done justice to the cause of highlighting the importance of caring for the carer as this has been my passion and purpose. Carers deserve to be cared for, as they are the advocates for hope and healing in our world.

If you wish to buy a copy of Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Roadmap of Trauma and Critical Incident Care, for yourself or as a gift for someone else, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/ydayx5le or https://lnkd.in/dPiYtek


Work with FD Consultants

FD Consultants is here to help any organisation looking to offer their staff with effective, empathetic, and collaborative psychological support. We are a source of hope and strength when it feels like you haven’t got any left. Reach out to our team of specialists today to discuss the situation you or your workplace is facing, and let us find a proven, evidence-based solution to navigate you through this challenging period.

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