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Preventative medicine

Consider staff support as something done with the primary purpose of keeping staff happy, healthy, satisfied and functioning well—supporting resilience, rather than patching them up after they are injured. This will involve a fundamental shift in how staff support is viewed and implemented in many organizations.

I know what doesn’t work! Letting people get to the point where the systems we have kick in. So I know it doesn’t work waiting until someone is showing signs of vicarious trauma and sending them off to a great therapist. That’s gone too far.  Kate Brady – Australian Red Cross

Too often the staff support box is ticked because an employee assistance program (EAP—a counselling service usually accessed by phone) is in place, and worker wellbeing is deemed at a satisfactory level if workers infrequently use the service. However, EAP may not be the support of choice or the most effective option for many who require support[1] and uptake is not a good measure of workforce wellbeing. This isn’t to say that EAP is not a valid support if offered as one of a range of options. Support to those harmed as a result of their involvement is vital, but to equate supporting those with a role in recovery to curative fixes is inadequate. Support works best when focused on promoting and maintaining wellbeing — not limited to addressing ill health.

Conceptualise the stress of people working in recovery as you would hygiene. There we have the conceptual understanding that we wash our hands not because we feel dirty. Same with stress – self-care and support needs to be routinised, not based on when we feel stressed. Dr Rob Gordon, Consultant psychologist in emergency recovery

[1]UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNHCR's Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for staff, 29 July 2013, PDES 12/2013, available at: [accessed 13 February 2014]