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

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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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Molly and the Two Pigeons (Audiobook ver)

Molly and the Two Pigeons is a short story for upper primary and lower secondary school children to teach them about Coronavirus in a fun and light-hearted way, and records a significant period of time in history. It could also be used as a teaching tool for parents or teachers.

A loveable puppy called Molly forms a friendship with two racing pigeons, Destiny and Grace, who live in a wooden hut in the adjacent garden. Grace is kind-hearted and takes a liking to Molly, Destiny is arrogant and is known as the fastest pigeon in the South, proven by his collection of medals. Their circle of friends expands to include Marv the wise Mandarin Duck, Flash Gordon the Goose, and Merlin the Mosquito.

This strange group of friends become united through one cause, to find a cure for the Coronavirus and help the people. Their adventures take them far and wide. They travel to China and learn about the origins of Coronavirus. They explore the Yangtze River, where they learn about the legend of the mountain peaks. They head to South Korea, where they learn about “Track and Trace” to prevent the spread of the virus. They also visit Oxford, England, where they explore how a vaccine is made. Their trip to Oxford coincides with a visit from Prince William, who Molly takes a great liking to and manages to get a royal stroke from.

Proceeds will be gifted to a charity to support the NHS and all those needing additional support from the impact of Coronavirus.

Trauma and counselling interview (Flirt Radio)

Mindfulness Exercise Series: Breathing & Relaxation

More than ever, people are talking about mindfulness. But what is it and how could it help you? Mindfulness can help you manage your wellbeing and mental health. It can enable you to:

✓ feel less overwhelmed
✓ improve your sleep quality
✓ positively change the way you think and feel about your experiences (especially stressful experiences)
✓ increase your ability to manage difficult situations
✓ make wiser choices
✓ reduce levels of anxiety
✓ reduce levels of depression
✓ reduce levels of stress
✓ reduce the amount you chew things over in your mind
✓ have greater self-compassion

Mindfulness is not fluffy nonsense nor is it a passing fad, there is a great deal of research evidencing that mindfulness changes the plasticity of our brain. But, it does take effort and work to develop mindfulness skills and time to practice them.

In this, the first series of mindfulness exercises I share some simple breathing and relaxation techniques to help you unwind and take some time for yourself.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

The Role of Community in Trauma Therapy Podcast

FIONA DUNKLEY is a trauma therapist and counsellor who has helped people and communities affected by war, terrorism and sexual violence. Drawing on experiences described in her new book – Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers – in these podcasts she tells us about the importance of community and its values in helping people overcome trauma.

Mindfulness Exercise 6: Mountain Meditation

Meditation is the collective term for a number of techniques used to still the mind, relax the body and produce a state of inner harmony. It differs from sleep, hypnosis or other types of relaxation simply because your mind remains alert.

There are many ways to meditate. You can meditate while sitting, walking, or practising yoga, but it is easiest to learn by sitting comfortably in a quiet room for several minutes twice a day, every day. There are 2 basic steps: to focus on a single word or phrase (of your choice – perhaps “peace” or “one”, or a religious word) or simply to focus on your breath; and to ignore or disregard all other thoughts.

When we focus on a single word, thought or image, we produce a state of calm that increases mental alertness, while relaxing other body systems.

Meditating twice a day for 15-20 minutes has been shown to be the most effective. Make an effort to practice every day, even if it’s initially only for 5 minutes. You may find it’s easiest to meditate first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

One of our favourite meditations is “The Mountain Meditation” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It encourages us to seek inner stability and peace, even in the face unpredictable change and chaos. Here is an adaptation of Kabat-Zinn’s classic guided meditation, we hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

Mindfulness Exercise 5:Healing Light Meditation

Healing Light meditation is a popular practice. You can use it almost anywhere to lift your mood. If you’ve got a few moments free throughout the day, I highly recommend learning this practice to fill some of those extra minutes with guided white light meditation.

Many people who meditate have had unusual encounters with healing light. They find the experience perplexing. There’s no logical source for this light; so where does it originate? Individuals experience this light in different ways. One meditator might see giant glowing white balls, while another one might see tiny comet-streaked white sparkles. Experiencing a light during meditation is common, but subjective. There are many benefits to following this healing light meditation, such as enhancing overall wellbeing, boosting self-esteem and feelings of connectedness and it can be used to help “clear” any painful emotions you may be experiencing.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

Mindfulness Exercise 4: Body Scan Meditation

When you’re feeling stressed, it’s common to “carry stress in your body” in the form of tense shoulders, a stomach “in knots,” through shallow breathing, or in other ways. When people carry stress in their bodies, they’re often not even aware of it! When we’re really stressed, we may be feeling physical discomfort but not connect it with our emotions. A body scan meditation is a practice that can be performed daily or even several times a day and can help you learn to identify what you are feeling and where you’re feeling it, and learn to release the stress in your body and mind.

The body scan meditation is effective in relieving stress not only because of the mind-clearing aspects present in all forms of meditation but because of the physical component as well. Research shows that there are physical and psychological benefits to relaxing the body and relieving tension. Relieving physical tension, for example, has been shown to lead to a decrease in psychological stress, even when no psychologically-based stress relief efforts are made. Tension relieved in the body can lead to lower stress levels and lower reactivity to future stress, which can, in turn, lead to less physical tension as a result of stress.

In this way, this meditation works to break the cycle of physical and psychological tension that can feed on itself. Because of this, the body scan meditation is a very useful and effective meditation that can help you to stay relaxed mentally and physically, and return to a relaxed state when you become too tense. You can try a body scan meditation right now by following this simple video exercise.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

Mindfulness Exercise 3: Compassionate Mindfulness

This is an exercise in feeling compassion towards yourself. Self compassion often doesn’t come naturally – it is a skill you need to learn, practice and consciously engage in. Research has shown that these techniques can help improve our emotional well-being, improve our ability to cope with life’s challenges, lower levels of anxiety and depression, promote healthy habits such as diet and exercise, and lead to more satisfying personal relationships.

Cultivating self-compassion in this way can fundamentally shift how we relate to ourselves. Instead of meeting our imperfections and challenges with self-blame and criticism, we can bring a kind and mindful attention to our experiences (thoughts, emotions, and sensations) and a sense of love and care to ourselves, right in the midst of difficult situations. With practice, we can strengthen this inner quality of presence, connectedness, and kindness to improve emotional well-being and build resilience.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

Mindfulness Exercise 2: Releasing Negative Energy

On a regular basis, we encounter a wide range of energies, both positive and negative, and since the negative energies we come in contact with have the power to drain, and make us feel tired and exhausted, it is very important to remove these energies.

Negative energy can be anger, anxiety, depression, resentment, jealousy, or any negative feeling and emotions that you have been holding on to. This guided meditation will help you remove any form of psychic attack or negative energies from your life and shield you from negativity.

Before you begin, remember to first, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for the next 15 minutes. Second, find a comfortable position to sit – it can be in a chair, crossed legged or on your knees, or lay down and when you’re ready, press play.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

Mindfulness Exercise Series 1: 4-Step Breathing

4-Step breathing (also called square, tactical or Box breathing) is a simple and highly effective technique that you can practice for a few minutes anytime you need to boost your creativity or concentration, break free from scattered thinking, or interrupt an intense “fight or flight” response and return to a state of healing and peace. It is also an effective breath to use at the beginning of your mindfulness practice.

This centuries old breathing technique for meditation has re-surfaced in the past few years and is being used by athletes, performers, doctors, and even navy seals, as their most effective strategy for quickly entering a calm, centered state of mind and body; especially when they are in an intense situation where they need to be fully present and directly connected to their best self/highest self. Many people report that when breathing is used as part of their meditation it has a dramatic, positive impact on their inner and outer wellbeing.

If you like this exercise then please get in touch with FD Consultants today to find out about their mindfulness and wellbeing courses.

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

Get your copy of Fiona’s book, Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers. It 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.

Molly and the Two Pigeons

Molly and the Two Pigeons is a short story for upper primary and lower secondary school children to teach them about Coronavirus in a fun and light-hearted way, and records a significant period of time in history. It could also be used as a teaching tool for parents or teachers.

A loveable puppy called Molly forms a friendship with two racing pigeons, Destiny and Grace, who live in a wooden hut in the adjacent garden. Grace is kind-hearted and takes a liking to Molly, Destiny is arrogant and is known as the fastest pigeon in the South, proven by his collection of medals. Their circle of friends expands to include Marv the wise Mandarin Duck, Flash Gordon the Goose, and Merlin the Mosquito.

This strange group of friends become united through one cause, to find a cure for the Coronavirus and help the people. Their adventures take them far and wide. They travel to China and learn about the origins of Coronavirus. They explore the Yangtze River, where they learn about the legend of the mountain peaks. They head to South Korea, where they learn about “Track and Trace” to prevent the spread of the virus. They also visit Oxford, England, where they explore how a vaccine is made. Their trip to Oxford coincides with a visit from Prince William, who Molly takes a great liking to and manages to get a royal stroke from.

Proceeds will be gifted to a charity to support the NHS and all those needing additional support from the impact of Coronavirus.

Download the first chapter of the audiobook for free – click here