Compassion Fatigue

The impact of secondary trauma on caregivers.

Why understand compassion fatigue and self-care?

Most of those in caring professions are drawn to the work because of a passion for improving the lives of others. As a result, those caregivers often carry the burdens of the children and families they serve. Understanding compassion fatigue, its signs and symptoms, and figuring out how best to care for ourselves and remain empathetic as we help others is vital. If our cup is not full, we have nothing to pour out for others.

The information on this page is designed to increase understanding, help caregivers identify the warning signs of compassion fatigue and inspire the building of a self-care regiment that ensures caregivers never have an empty cup.

Secondary Trauma (a.k.a Compassion Fatigue) is typically experienced by frontline workers and caregivers of individuals experiencing trauma – it is the result of “walking with” an individual who has experienced a traumatic event. It has also been called "Vicarious Trauma." Vicarious trauma was a term invented by McCann and Pearlman that is used to describe working with traumatized clients and the effect it has on trauma therapists. You can read more in their whitepaper "Vicarious Traumatization: A framework for understanding the physiological effects of working with victims."

According to Merriam-Webster, compassion fatigue is the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time. It's secondary definition is apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as a result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance.

“Compassion fatigue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2022.

Walker Co. Schools #intentionalwellness

This video highlights Walker County School System's #intentialwellness program with real-world examples of how self-care is incorporated into school culture at all levels.