Secondary Trauma in Public Safety

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Secondary Trauma in Public Safety


Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. And Today’s Tip is for everyone in public safety. Today I’d like to address an extremely important issue: secondary trauma.  

Secondary or indirect traumatic stress is sometimes referred to as compassion fatigue. That means you experience traumatic symptoms not directly but resulting from exposure to the pain and suffering of others.  

Public safety personnel are usually very empathetic. And while empathy is one of the most important qualities we can possess, it’s also the primary pathway along which trauma transfers vicariously. Being empathetic can make us more susceptible to secondary trauma. 

Look at all the potentially traumatic experiences public safety personnel are exposed to. We respond to, take, write and read autopsy, sexual assault, and child abuse reports. We also interact with victims and their affected families and friends. We may also assess criminal and social histories, the latter often riddled with years of trauma. 

So, how can you address secondary trauma? First, seek out and actively participate in training to learn about the physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual challenges of your work.   

Second, access post-incident interventions for support. These include employee support programs, critical incident stress debriefings, individual crisis intervention, and stress assessments, among others.  

Finally, and I can’t stress the importance of this enough, realize that what you may be going through is normal. Seek and get help before secondary trauma negatively impacts you.  

Secondary trauma is an extremely sensitive topic. When it comes up during training, many attendees stay quiet. Let’s stop that and work to end the stigma surrounding getting help for trauma, together.  

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.  

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