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Helping the helpers – Tips to avoid burnout reactions and to remain professionally effective

Posted By: • September 23rd, 2015

Humanitarian workers and psychosocial professionals working with challenging and unusu- al populations have in common that they tend to be highly motivated individuals, often somewhat idealistic and ready to work in stressful environments.

This has been recognized by many international humanitarian organizations, first by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and later on by other organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and more recently by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The same recognition relates to domestic humanitarian action, indeed psychosocial professionals working in unusual and stressful situations and/or with challenging populations. Their strong desire to help others often masks their own needs. Frequently, although they are technically proficient in various specialized skills, they are unaware of stress as a phenomenon that can affect work ability and performance and impinge on their professional satisfaction.

Unhappiness or even intense dysphoria, physical symptoms, burnout and many other manifestations may lead, in worse case scenarios, the otherwise healthy and previously motivated staff to leave their jobs with a sense of personal failure.

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