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Mental health professionals should regularly self-care to avoid burnout

Guardian recently published a new article with the title: “Psychosis isn’t catching but burnout is a risk for many caring professionals”. The title sparked some negative comments from some tweeters suggesting “of course psychosis is not contagious”. Despite this, the article highlights an important and somewhat unspoken issue.

The Guardian article suggests that staff, who work within mental health and with individuals experiencing psychosis, may be impacted when regularly dealing with traumatic situations. For example, they may experience ‘burnout’ or compassion fatigue which may only arise years later. Mind; mental health charity, found that 87% of emergency services staff had suffered stress, low mood and poor mental health at some point whilst doing their job. Additionally, NHS staff sickness absence caused by mental ill-health has doubled to 40,000 since 2010. 

To avoid ‘burnout’ psychotherapist Sandra Grieve says regular discussion is vital. Being involved in difficult or sad situations can be like going through them ourselves. There is a lack of knowledge of vicarious trauma, when we are told about a trauma experience our mirror neurons in our brain cause us to have similar experience of trauma to whom individual it was directly caused. Not talking through the thoughts and feelings can lead to physical illness. Therefore, talking about our own mental wellbeing should be a commonplace within work and home life.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be used for vicarious traumatisation, meditation has been suggested as extremely useful – particularly loving-kindness meditation. Having a balanced, meaningful life, connecting with ourselves and others should be common practice.

By: Abigail Christine Wright
Last updated: Thursday, 2 July 2015