Managing Stress for Mission/Aid Workers:
The Lausanne 3 Conference brought together some 4000 people this past October (2010) in South Africa. Here are excerpts from one of the seven MCA blogs on the Global Conversation portal at Lausanne 3.
The main question of this particular blog: How can we support mission/aid workers so that they are as healthy and effective as possible? Are sending groups doing a good job supporting their national/local and international staff? Yes, No, or Probably?!
(Video clip from Humanitarian Policy http://www.humanitarianpolicy.org/)
“Effective pre-mission training must begin with instilling awareness of the need for security and psychosocial support in the culture of organizations. Patched together, ad hoc, or solely programatic efforts will have only minimal impact. Security and support must be integrated, both structurally and functionally, into the mainstream of pre-field mission operations: mission planning, staffing, and budgeting.” Yael Danieli, Sharing the Front Line and the Back Hills (2002), p. 383
Here is a stress assessment tool (13 items) from ta booklet by the International Federation of the Red Cross, Managing Stress in the Field (2001). It is based on “The Relief Worker Burnout Questionnaire” in Coping with Disaster, 1999, by John H. Ehrenreich. http://helid.digicollection.org/en/d/Js2897e/6.html
Instructions: Rate each of the following items in terms of how much the symptom was true of you the last month. 0 = Never 1 = Occasionally 2 = Somewhat often 3 = Frequently 4 = Almost always
__1. Do you tire easily? Do you feel fatigued a lot of the time, even when you have gotten enough sleep?
__2. Are people annoying you by their demands and stories about their daily activities? Do minor inconveniences make you irritable or impatient?
__3. Do you feel increasingly critical, cynical or disenchanted?
__4. Are you affected by sadness you can’t explain? Are you crying more than usual?
__5. Are you forgetting appointments, deadlines, personal possessions? Have you become absent-minded?
__6. Are you seeing close friends and family members less frequently? Do you find yourself wanting to be alone and avoiding even your close friends?
__7. Does doing even routine things seem like an effort?
__8. Are you suffering from physical complaints such as stomach aches, headaches, lingering colds, general aches and pains?
__9. Do you feel confused or disoriented when the activity of the day stops?
__10. Have you lost interest in activities that you previously were interested in or even enjoyed?
__11. Do you have little enthusiasm for your work? Do you feel negative, futile, or depressed about your work?
__12. Are you less efficient than you think you should be?
__13. Are you eating more (or less), smoking more cigarettes, using more alcohol or drugs to cope with your work?
Total Score: (Add up scores for items 1-13)
Interpretation: No formal norms are available for this measure. Based on the content of the items, a score of 0-15 suggests the delegate is probably coping adequately with the stress of his or her work. A score of 16-25 suggests the worker is suffering from work stress and would be wise to take preventive action. A score of 26-35 suggests possible burnout. A score above 35 indicates probable burn out.
**See the CHOPS Adjustment Inventory (in several languages) and other free assessment tools at our MCA Reality DOSE web site.
**See the 2010 update of the Operational Security Manual in Violent Environments, from Humanitarian Policy Network (download it for free---discuss and apply!)
Reflection and Discussion
1. What did you think about the video clip on safety for humanitarian workers? What were the main points and how effective was it?
2. Take the assessment tool above on stress assessment. What did you learn about yourself and how might you better manage stress?
3. How can some of the above resources be used in your setting?