Second Hand Stress in the Workplace


Through media, education and/or personal experience, many of us are familiar with the terrible effects of “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD).  When someone has experienced a significant trauma, there is a risk of dealing with short term or long term symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal to mention just a few.

Having worked with many professionals, through my clinical practice and corporate presentations, I have gained hands on understanding and insight into the often dramatic second hand stress effects when helping others.  Empathy and compassion are valued characteristics; however, as is the case with all traits, it is a double edged sword.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to completely remove yourself from the emotional impact of dealing with someone else’s traumas and crisis.

I have developed a workshops that cultivates awareness that professionals are at risk to develop stress symptoms as a result of indirect exposure to trauma through a first-hand account of a traumatic event.  It encourages professionals to strengthen their own personal resiliency knowing that helping others may take its toll on their own wellbeing.  Information and education on the importance of self-awareness, personal self-care and workplace strategies to effectively manage the risk of Second Hand Stress symptoms are discussed.

  • The symptoms may include
  • Nightmares
  • Re-experiencing mentally the feelings and experiences of the other’s event
  • Increased illness and fatigue
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Emotional numbing
  • Hyper-arousal

It may also be observed, in the workplace, avoidance of certain clients or tasks, missed appointments, absenteeism, and lack of motivation.

There are strategies that can be implemented in the workplace and in the personal lives of employees that effectively reduce the risks.  It is important to be prepared for the possible stress effects and be committed to your own personal resiliency – you cannot always control an event, but, you CAN control how you react to it.  Being pro-active instead of reactive is the first step.

Often, police agencies, crisis workers, emergency service agencies request this workshop, but, in my opinion, any career that works with people, in any capacity, can benefit from this information in order to keep your capacity to deal with any adversity at its best possible.

In my clinical practice, I also often see the effects of second hand stress with individuals that are helping loved ones through crisis, such as health issues and chronic disorders.  Taking care of ailing parents, palliative family members, or children and teens with psychological and/or physical health problems takes its toll on all of us.

Bottom line is that each and every one of us needs to ensure our own personal oxygen tank is at its fullest.  You cannot give what you do not have, therefore, recharging and charging yourself is vital.

Feel free to contact me for more information on Second hand stress and preventative strategies.



Professional Speaker and Workshop Presenter
Sherry Campbell, M.A. RSW OACCPP
Owner & Principal Counsellor, Sherry Campbell Group