Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring

By Office Of The High Commissioner For Human Rights | Go to book overview

Chapter XXIII
STRESS,
VICARIOUS TRAUMA
AND BURN-OUT

Key concepts

HROs work and live under situations in which they are likely to experience secondary
trauma, that is: stress, vicarious traumatization, counter-transference, exhaustion and
burn-out.

Secondary trauma often causes such symptoms as: fatigue, sadness, depression, cynicism,
discouragement, loss of compassion, hyper-arousal, sleep disturbances, intrusive
nightmares related to trauma material, somatic problems (headaches, joint pain,
abdominal discomfort/diarrhoea), feelings of helplessness, denial, disbelief, anger and
rage.

There are a number of measures and practices which can help to prevent and treat
secondary trauma, including:

Mandatory intermittent work-free periods (e.g., one day per week);
Mandatory rest and recreation outside of the country (e.g., one week every six to eight weeks);
Supportive relationships with family and friends;
Relaxation techniques, e.g., meditation, listening to music;
Physical exercise, and others.

A. Introduction1

1. HROs work and live under situations in which they are likely to experience stress, vicarious traumatization, counter-transference, exhaustion and burn-out. Taken together, psychologists have referred to these phenomena as “secondary trauma”,

1Adapted from UNHCR, Guidelines on the evaluation and care of victims of trauma and violence (1995) and Center for Victims of Torture,
Vicarious Trauma and Burnout (1995).

-465-

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