Humanitarian Volunteers and Their Mental Health

Natural disasters leave destruction in their wake, but humanity rushes to the aid of those in need after these events take place. As volunteers aid the affected, they are committing a selfless act to leave their lives behind for a spell and offer help to those less fortunate. However, volunteers often suffer from second-hand trauma due to taxing conditions and lacking organizational support. This can cause one’s mental health to be neglected.

The reality is that support for those working in the humanitarian space is few and far between. Traumatic experiences, dangerous conditions, long hours and chronic stress all play into the mental health of aid workers. These volunteers are more likely to deal with increased anxiety, depression, compassion fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How can the world of humanitarian aid be better served dealing with these harmful mental health effects? Improving organizational factors is a good place to start. Bolstering inadequate supervision standards and emphasizing positive staff relations will boost morale and improve attitudes.

Organizations should also ensure that their mental and emotional health training is appropriate and proven. Providing clear job descriptions as well as working hours at the start of a schedule gives volunteers more freedom to plan other life activities. Other methods include team debriefings, one-on-one meetings, and mental health workshops.

Volunteers should also stress resilience and emotional strength as part of their routine in order to promote a healthy mind and lifestyle. When the work becomes unbearable and adequate resources are nowhere in sight, it’s important to seek out professional help as quick as you can.

For more information on the how to improve mental health in the humanitarian aid world, please see the provided guide created by Life for Relief and Development.

Guide created by Life for Relief and Development, specialists in humanitarian services

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