Humanitarian aid work is difficult. It is stressful. It requires long hours in intense situations, in insecure environments, observing desperate and miserable situations. In addition, aid workers often feel guilty about sharing their experiences, or seeking help, because they know that those they were helping were (and sometimes remain) in far worse conditions than they were. At times, aid workers can suffer from guilt of not being able to help enough or being able to leave those situations. Some aid workers return from a situation or emergency with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) associated with having been in traumatic situations.
Caregivers, or emergency responders, are required by professional codes, or law, to have psycho-social support provided to them. Counsellors have to have a certain number of hours of counselling themselves; police officers and medics can seek counselling and resources to help them deal with difficult situations they have encountered. In the same way, humanitarian aid workers need the same sort of support because of what they’ve seen and engaged with.
This page is for those who work in humanitarian aid – specifically, women who work, or have worked, in humanitarian aid. Maybe you’re in a tough field posting right now, maybe you read some of the essays in our book and they brought back a lot of troubling memories. Whatever the reason, we want you to know that you’re not in it alone and there are resources out there just for you. Below are some different categories and resources that you can access online from wherever you are now.
Stress & Burnout: “Humanitarian work is physically and emotionally demanding, and many humanitarian workers struggle to find a healthy balance between the demands of the work and the need to pay some attention to their own well-being. The resources on this page provide an overview of stress as it is related to humanitarian work, and helpful coping strategies for dealing with it.” (Headington Institute). Click here to read more about stress and burnout.
Trauma & Critical Incidences: “Humanitarian aid workers are now more likely than ever to face traumatic stress in some form during the course of their career. This traumatic stress can come directly – such as experiencing a critical incident or witnessing a violent or threatening event. Or, it may come in the form of vicarious trauma – the cumulative effect of interacting with trauma survivors and taking in their stories. We invite you to explore the topic areas below and learn some ways to prevent and lessen the impact of traumatic stress” (Headington Institute). Click here to read more about trauma and critical incidences.
Women & Gender: “Discussions related to gender are extremely difficult to navigate. Women in the field often experience added psychological strain as a result of security concerns, work relationships, cultural expectations, or harassment. We want to see all humanitarians thrive in their work and find the support they need.” On this page you’ll find resources that explore common themes in the area of gender. We plan to add to these resources and find ways to promote better conversations.” (Headington Institute). Click here to read more about issues facing women: Women and Gender
“Resilience is the ability to bounce back or return to normal functioning after adversity. Many humanitarians adapt to challenge in the short term by drawing on natural strengths. However, given the nature and intensity of humanitarian work, most relief and development professionals will need to intentionally build their resilience in order to offset the effects of long term stress exposure on the brain and body.” (Headington Institute). Click here to read more about resilience.