Catastrophe holds the capacity for humanity to come together. As volunteers rush to the aid of those affected by natural disasters, they put their well-being to the side for the health and wellbeing of others.
Volunteers not only face second-hand trauma during these times, but frequently experience taxing work conditions and lack of organizational support among other hardships. Because of this, mental health often suffers. As a result, these mental and emotional issues can have a profound negative effect on those involved.
Unfortunately, not enough adequate support is being offered to the humanitarian aid workers that so many people depend on. Here is a brief look into the mental health challenges aid workers face and ways to improve the current strategies and methods in place now.
Exposure to traumatic events, safety hazards, long hours and chronic stress can negatively affect mental health greatly. In turn, humanitarian aid workers commonly see increased amounts of anxiety, depression, compassion fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more. A lack of organizational support is also a contributing factor, not to mention the inherent risk involved in humanitarian aid.
What can be done to combat these increasing rates of mental health issues? Research on humanitarian workers suggests the onset of mental anguish could be curbed by improving organizational factors. Such factors include subpar supervision standards, poor manager relationships and an unsupportive team.
On the other hand, organizations can also work to improve their mental and emotional health training. In that same vein, clear job descriptions and working hours at the onset could dramatically improve morale. Other innovative approaches could include team-wide debriefings, one-on-one meetings, and workshops focusing on recognizing symptoms within themselves and the team. These suggestions can do wonders for revitalizing a participant’s mental fortitude.
It’s paramount that these organizations understand that implementing new policies along with reinforcing a safe environment to discuss concerns openly is mandatory. Volunteer well-being is important in order to ensure workers are appropriately equipped to perform the duties that are required of them.
Organizations must prioritize these issues as part of their strategic planning and budgeting in the future. Those who don’t may see an equal or greater amount of time and money spent elsewhere — on disability claims, formal complaints, retention efforts, and recruitment.
In closing, aid workers should also implement resilience and emotional strength practices to improve and maintain their mental health. When the workload becomes too taxing and adequate resources are not provided, it’s paramount to seek professional help as soon as possible. These measures can increase the chances of thriving in this rewarding field.
For more information on the importance of mental health among humanitarian aid workers, please see the accompanying resource.
Guide created by Life for Relief and Development