This past month, CNN reported on an Uber internal memo acknowledging that their special investigative unit is beginning to suffer the impact of investigating everything from assaults, threats and other traumatic incidents. In the social service world, we call this “Compassion Fatigue” or secondary traumatic stress. It occurs in high stress occupations that involve exposure to the trauma experienced by another. Those who routinely witness the aftermath or hear stories of trauma, can experience symptoms that mirror PTSD.
An Uber company spokesperson told CNN, that they were “very focused on ways to support safety response agents, including helping them cope with the stress and challenges of this important job.”
Good for Uber for recognizing the need to respond. However, combating compassion fatigue involves so much more than stress management. Understanding the impact of secondary trauma (witnessing the trauma of others) on the brain and body is the first step in an effective response as well as preventative actions for both individuals and organizations.
It is time we recognize that violence and trauma have an impact on all of us. Even witnessing trauma second hand can create a ripple effect that takes its toll on our families and communities.
I believe the necessity as well as the responsibility for understanding the effects of both primary and secondary trauma has widened to include mainstream businesses and organizations. If you are dealing with people, you are going to have to acknowledge the impact of trauma.