Self Care For 1st Responders
Mar 03, 2021
They are the people who sacrifice to better the lives of others — social workers, doctors, lived experience advocates, psychologists, teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers, just to name a few. At their core, helping professionals are selfless. They are dedicated to providing services for the physically, mentally, economically and socially disadvantaged.
Self-care is paramount. In terms of professional disciplines, it is an ethical imperative. If one doesn't adequately take care of themselves it is unlikely that they can provide the best possible services to others.
Doing their very best to meet the needs of others day after day, year after year, while potentially putting their own needs on the back burner, could lead to burnout.
These career paths can be rewarding and restorative, but also exhausting and emotional.
In essence, helping professionals are on the frontline of dealing with some of society’s most problematic circumstances. The demand placed on these individuals can lead to a number of problematic conditions, including compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, secondary traumatic stress and professional burnout, among other problematic phenomena.
What’s more, is that many helping professionals are disproportionately affected by cumbersome bureaucratic processes, funding cuts and restrictions, and changing or uncertain political climates. These factors, either singularly or in combination, can impact not only the individuals providing the services, but can have an impact on the services they are providing.
Burnout, a term first coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1975, describes what happens when a practitioner becomes increasingly inoperative. As symptoms worsen, its effects can turn more serious. That begs the question, how can people in the helping professions provide compassionate care for others if they are not doing the same for themselves?