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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2012 - 10:22:56 PM
Psychology Channel

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Latest Research : Psychiatry : Psychology

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Psychological stress in overseas aid workers

Apr 8, 2005 - 4:16:00 AM

Taken together, the figures showed that 97.6 per cent of the sample had experienced directly or indirectly one of 17 recognised traumatic events. Of this sample, 88.0 per cent reported suffering the effects of trauma to some degree, with 40.5 per cent likely to meet the clinical criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 
[RxPG] Aid agencies should provide psychological support for their staff "as a matter of course", says a psychologist who has studied the way traumatic events affect aid workers.

Dr Ashleigh Quaite from the University of Hertfordshire made this call at the Annual Conference of the Division of Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester on Friday 1 April 2005.

Dr Quaite asked 42 overseas aid workers to complete questionnaires about their experience in the field and their reactions to it. He found that 59.5 per cent had experienced one traumatic event in their work and that 26.2 per cent had experienced more than five. Even more (78.4 per cent) had experienced a traumatic event indirectly, for instance by hearing someone else's account of an incident or seeing photographic images.

Taken together, the figures showed that 97.6 per cent of the sample had experienced directly or indirectly one of 17 recognised traumatic events. Of this sample, 88.0 per cent reported suffering the effects of trauma to some degree, with 40.5 per cent likely to meet the clinical criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Workers who were suffering from PTSD were also more likely than other workers to suffer from vicarious traumatisation and job burnout.

Dr Quaite says: "There has been so little research done that I doubt if anyone knows how much support overseas aid workers receive, but I have heard anecdotal reports from experienced workers about a general lack of provision. If these findings are typical of aid workers as a whole, then agencies should provide psychological support to their workers as a matter of course."

Dr Quaite is now comparing the thought processes of workers who do and do not experience problems after witnessing traumatic events to see how people can be helped to cope with distressing experiences.



Publication: Presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference
On the web: www.bps.org.uk 

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