A FREE seminar for frontline emergency services and people working in caring professions is being held in Glasgow this week.
Designed to support people at risk from extreme stress through their jobs, the Dealing With Burnout And Compassion Fatigue conference will be led by Dr Don Lichi, a world-renowned clinical psychologist from America.
Dr Lichi, an expert in secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, said: “There’s an increasing focus on mental health issues, which is both welcome and needed, especially in the area of the professional and caring services, where pressures are reaching intolerable levels for many involved.
“This seminar is designed to offer practical advice and support to those in roles that can induce burnout, a syndrome linked to work-related stress. In frontline and caring services, compassion fatigue can also have consequences for those who use the services.”
As well as police, paramedics and firefighters, the seminar, which will be on Thursday, will offer advice to social workers, teachers, charity and community workers.
Dr Lichi has worked in mental health for more than 35 years and has collected a range of skills he believes will help alleviate a range of mental health issues triggered by work with vulnerable people who themselves can have a host of unseen conditions.
At his mental health care centre in Ohio, Dr Lichi works with members of the armed forces, people who have been trafficked, and drug and alcohol addicts.
As a military veteran who has seen the effects of PTSD both in and out of the field, he is determined to help others who are experiencing it, or working with those who are.
He said: “When working with people on the frontline our energy can get depleted and people then can go into burnout, or what is known as secondary PTSD.”
This vicarious trauma can bleed into the lives of workers who are faced with people suffering every day.
Dr Lichi said: “When you work with people that so much is required of, people that really put their lives on the line, they often don’t know what’s going to happen in any given day. That has its toll over time.
“What I do in my professional work is say, ‘okay, what do we need to do?’ Not just recognising the symptoms and the sources, but also what are some of the solutions?”
Despite never seeing a reduction in the number of people needing his help, Dr Lichi isn’t convinced mental health issues are getting worse but instead thinks there is more recognition.
He said: “I think for many people – the fact there is help available, and the sources of help are becoming a little bit more available – maybe people are finding that with the accessibility, it’s okay to get help and not have to hide it.”
He has witnessed the breaking down of stigma over his lengthy career.
He said: “That is probably one of the best things that has happened – people can say, ‘I don’t have to hold this and I don’t have to run and hide. And certainly I don’t have to face these issues alone. There are people who do care for me’.”
But the caregivers have to take care too, and that’s where the strategies Dr Lichi will be sharing come in.
He said: “We’re going to try and help you before you need it. Let’s build some fences at the top of the hill and not just call for the ambulance at the bottom.”