How Widespread Are These Problems?
Even the most compassionate, well-intentioned leaders are likely to underestimate just how prevalent trauma and fatigue are in the modern work environment—even now, when the dominant paradigm has shifted to remote or hybrid work for those roles that don’t require direct, face-to-face contact.
Ken McCarthy is an acknowledged expert on this topic. His company, Integrity by McCarthy, oversees and conducts workplace and sports investigations. He also understands this unique form of trauma based on personal experience. After interviewing the subject of an investigation who died just two weeks later, Ken found himself exhibiting many of the symptoms outlined above.
“I went from doing interviews and writing reports to ‘can’t do anything,’” he explains. After completing a routine investigation interview, he felt “exhausted” and “took a three-hour nap,” despite not feeling overly tired beforehand. Beyond the pattern of exhaustion after working, the normally positive McCarthy also began to feel cynical and apathetic.
McCarthy’s journey back to health wasn’t easy. But recovery provided a newfound focus within his work. He now speaks publicly about his experience, consulting with organizations throughout Canada and beyond to promote investigator mental health.
In a recent i-Sight webinar, McCarthy asked the 1,000+ attendees whether they’d ever experienced the types of empathy-induced issues he was describing. The results to this poll question were startling, even to us. Fifty-three per cent answered “yes, definitely,” and another 33 per cent responded with “possibly.” Let that sink in—a full 88 per cent of this investigator-packed audience confirmed they may have been personally affected by exposure to the stress and trauma of others.
So, what can you do right now to create a culture that takes a more proactive, preventative stance on compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma?