Vicarious Trauma in Education
Covid-19, the closure of schools, global lockdowns, world-wide protests and increasing daily death rates have all contributed to our collective and cumulative trauma since March 2020. Teachers and wider education staff regularly engage with young people who have experienced issues during this time and as a result, can feel a real burden on their own wellbeing and how this can impact their view on the world. This can be classed as vicarious trauma, resulting in it taking a physical, emotional and mental toll on you.
This section aims to shine a light on this whilst providing some information on how best to manage this situation that you or colleagues may find yourselves in. This has never been more prevalent with the ongoing worldwide trauma, fear and uncertainty witnessed on a daily basis due to Covid-19 public health pandemic.
As workers on the front-line providing an essential service to the children and young people, it is likely that you will continue to be exposed to trauma within the school and classroom settings. Young people continue to experience adversity and toxic stress within their life, including living in poverty and deprivation, experiences of domestic abuse, bullying, parental separation and substance abuse whilst navigating the pandemic. For a lot of these young people, education and the role you play is consistent within a safe place that they can engage within. This can, and does, lead to vicarious trauma amongst teaching and wider support staff.
Vicarious trauma impacts your wellbeing as a whole. Physical symptoms can become apparent such as exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, feelings of sickness and impaired appetite amongst others. There are also a host of emotional signs including compassion fatigue, guilt, anger and feelings of hopelessness amongst others. It can be common for this to have an impact on your work / life balance and carrying this burden into your personal life.
There are a number of strategies that you could use, listed in the resource below, if you believe you are experiencing vicarious trauma. This includes increasing your own self-observation, recognising your signs of stress and burnout. Another is seeking social support from colleagues, friends or family members or implementing a peer-support service within the education setting. It is also important to keep your physical health maintained through good exercise and diet, giving you a better wellbeing base to support your emotional state.