Taking stock – understanding compassion fatigue
As counsellors, we absorb huge amounts of distress and anxiety on behalf of the institutions we work for. Recognising the impact of this,and knowing how to take good care of ourselves, is vital to being able to thrive in our roles. Jackie Williams explores.
Ministers without portfolio: are chaplains really Wombles in disguise?
In the first of a new series exploring the links between the work of therapists and chaplains on campus, Alexandra Logan celebrates the ‘in-between’ space she is able to occupy within the life of an institution.
Care • Collaborate • Connect: a person and needs-based approach to suicide prevention in universities
Can we respond with warmth and compassion to students who disclose suicidal thoughts? Helen Stallman describes a model of responding to students in need which emphasises thoughtful engagement rather than defensive reaction.
An online approach to anxiety with multi-purpose use
Sonia Greenidge writes about the online anxiety management programme she developed which engages students across her institution, whether or not they register for counselling.
Student death and the university response (free article)
Clear, practical policies to guide a humane, caring response in times of crisis are essential, writes Deirdre Flynn. These policies must be living documents, engaging staff at all levels and generating collaborative responses from across the institution.
BACP and divisional news
Notes from FE
Notes from the Chair
Notes from HUCS
From the editor
‘Preparing for winter’. A phrase which, in our modern, centrally heated world with foodstuffs available in all seasons, may not have as much resonance as for previous generations.
The writer Cynthia Bourgeault argues that winter – a season of quiet and of dying back in nature – is an essential part of our life-cycle, but one we often prefer to avoid thinking about.1 It behoves us all, she believes, to prepare for the inevitable cycles of beginnings and endings, fresh starts and losses that we encounter throughout our lives.
In our institutions, preparing for winter might include being ready for some of the most difficult situations any of us will face: the death of a student or colleague – especially if this is by suicide. It is inevitable in the context of large institutions that some deaths will occur every year – often by natural causes, sometimes in more traumatic circumstances. What counts in our preparations for these ‘winters’ is that we have a thought-through plan of response, which avoids a panicked, knee-jerk reaction which ramps up stress and anxiety among staff and students. Deirdre Flynn, from Trinity College Dublin, writes about the importance of an institutional death response plan: not something that is written once and then shelved, but a key policy, kept alive with regular input and training, so that all staff are able to feel confident and clear about what to do when the worst happens.
Helen Stallman, from the International Association for University Health and Wellbeing, proposes a new paradigm for assessing risk in students, one based on need. When students disclose thoughts or behaviours deemed ‘risky’, can we respond with compassion and engagement rather than anxiety and avoidance? Can we contain our own anxiety when hearing about suicidal thoughts, and reach out to an individual who does not want to be ‘managed’ but helped?
Taking care of ourselves, too, in this demanding work is essential. Jackie Williams writes about the impact of compassion fatigue and moral distress in our work – the draining of our ability to ‘be’ with clients, day in, day out. If we are not careful, we may find ourselves in a personal ‘winter’ of burnout and despondency, unable to relate deeply and fully to individuals who need our full engagement. It’s important that we find ways to replenish ourselves and stay well: another level of ‘preparing for winter’ we would all do well to consider.
Our British winters do seem to be getting milder – famous last words! – but I hope that your preparations, personal and institutional, will help you through any challenges ahead with a sense of support and understanding.
1. http://cynthiabourgeault.org/ (accessed 7 October 2019).