Secondary Traumatic Stress for Educators

Secondary Traumatic Stress for Educators: Understanding and Mitigating the Effects

Roughly half of American school children have experienced at least some form of trauma — from neglect, to abuse, to violence. In response, educators often find themselves having to take on the role of counselors, supporting the emotional healing of their students, not just their academic growth.
The condition has numerous names: secondary traumatic stress (STS), vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue.
The symptoms are similar in some ways to post-traumatic stress disorder: withdrawing from friends and family; feeling unexplainably irritable or angry or numb; inability to focus; blaming others; feeling hopeless or isolated or guilty about not doing enough; struggling to concentrate; being unable to sleep; overeating or not eating enough; and continually and persistently worrying about students, when they’re at home and even in their sleep.
One of the handful of studies of STS in schools found that more than 200 staff surveyed from across six schools reported very high levels of STS.
STS can affect teachers’ happiness, health and professional practice. But Betsy McAlister Groves, a clinical social worker and former faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says that she has often been surprised by the number of teachers, school counselors and administrators who recognized the cumulative stressors that they faced in their schools but did not realize that their symptoms were a common reaction to working with traumatized children — and that these symptoms had a name.

How Schools Can Acknowledge Secondary Trauma:
Building a Culture of Awareness
Create Peer Groups
Trauma-Informed Schools: School leaders should take a school-wide approach. There is a growing movement around creating trauma-informed schools — schools that recognize and are prepared to support community members affected by trauma and traumatic stress. Such schools deeply integrate social-emotional learning into their teaching, culture and approach, understanding that the holistic health and wellbeing of their charges is essential for achieving academic success.

Resource for teachers and schools

  • Assess how your work as an educator might be affecting you (both positively and negatively) by using the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) self-assessment tool and exploring the toolkit created by Teaching Tolerance to learn self-care strategies.
  • Learn how, as an educator, you can begin to identify secondary traumatic stress and learn strategies for self care through the tip sheet created by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
  • Explore the resources created by the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Harvard Law School.
  • How strong are your school’s trauma-responsive programs and policies? Take the 20-minute evidence-informed Trauma Responsive Schools Implementation Assessment to find out — and learn ways to grow your school’s work.
  • Learn about additional individual and organization strategies for addressing secondary traumatic stress, compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Stay tuned for a new online curriculum for preK–12 teachers, named STAT (Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma), being created by experts in the fields of secondary traumatic stress, education, and technology. The curriculum, due for a 2019 launch, will feature five modules on risk factors, the impact of STS, and self-assessment, among related topics.

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more on mindfulness in this IMS blog
http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=mindful

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