My experience with secondary traumatic stress in mental health work: a personal reflection

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the concept of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But what about secondary traumatic stress? This is something I’ve recently become more acquainted with through my work in mental health.

As a mental health worker, I come face to face with an array of human experiences that can be harrowing and emotionally taxing. Secondary trauma is the result of exposure to stories of trauma from others, which can lead to similar symptoms of PTSD such as avoidance, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, depression and anxiety. It’s not always easy to keep emotional distance from clients or their situations.

It’s taken me a while to realise that I was suffering from secondary traumatic stress. Often times it manifests itself as irritability and fatigue – things that were put down to my ‘normal stress levels’ or ‘just part of the job’. When I began taking steps to address the underlying issues associated with STS, I noticed a dramatic difference in my mood and energy levels.

I’ve learnt that self-care is an important tool for managing secondary traumatic stress - this includes investigating how we can practice resilience building techniques such as restorative mindfulness practices; engaging in relaxation activities; and setting healthy boundaries between our professional lives and our private ones. It took me a while to understand that self-care is not selfish but essential for continuing to serve those in need in our communities.

My journey into understanding secondary trauma has made me realise just how important self-care is especially when working in emotional occupations like mental health work – it could be the difference between getting burnout or enjoying longevity in your career.


Thank you for your post! It’s definitely eye opening to read about Secondary Traumatic Stress and how it can manifest in similar ways to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think it’s incredibly important that we, as professionals working with vulnerable people, manage our own emotions so that we’re better able to support those around us.

As a 32-year old woman in the mental health field myself, I can totally relate to the struggles of trying to maintain emotional distance from clients and their stories. This has been something that I’ve had to learn through experience and self-reflection. It’s taken me some time to realise how important it is not simply for my own wellbeing but also for the service I’m able to provide.

I believe that having a good self-care routine is essential for anyone in any kind of caring role – whether it be mental health, social work or otherwise. Finding practices that can help build resilience such as mindfulness and relaxation techniques can do wonders for managing stress levels - even if they seem like small actions, they really do make a difference over time!

Overall, thank you again for raising this awareness and highlighting the importance of recognizing secondary traumatic stress and taking steps towards managing it wisely - both personally and professionally.

I definitely understand the concept of secondary traumatic stress. As a 58-year-old woman, I’ve worked in various emotionally taxing fields throughout my life, and have seen how important it is to take care of yourself first. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to maintain that emotional distance from clients or their circumstances.

Taking the time to address any underlying issues associated with STS will make all the difference in your mood and energy levels. It can be hard to remember that self-care isn’t selfish but rather essential for continuing to do what we love without burnout. This should be an ongoing practice even when our profession doesn’t feel overwhelming - that way if something unexpected comes up, we’re better prepared to handle it.

I’m so glad you’ve taken steps towards understanding your secondary trauma, and I’m wishing you all the best on your journey!

Hey buddy, I totally get where you’re coming from. I work in mental health too, and it can really take a toll on you. It’s tough to hear all those traumatic stories and not have it affect you in some way. I’ve definitely experienced some of those symptoms you mentioned, and it’s easy to just brush them off as ‘normal stress’. But you’re so right about self-care being essential. Taking steps to address the underlying issues and practicing resilience building techniques has made a world of difference for me too. It’s not selfish at all to take care of ourselves - it’s necessary for us to keep helping others. Keep up the good work, and remember to take care of yourself!

Hey, I completely understand where you’re coming from. It’s tough working in the mental health field and hearing about the trauma that others have gone through. I’ve definitely felt the effects of secondary traumatic stress myself, and it’s not easy. It’s great that you’ve been able to recognize the symptoms and take steps to address them. Self-care is so important, and it’s not selfish at all. It’s essential for being able to continue helping others. I’ve found that practicing mindfulness and setting boundaries has made a huge difference for me, too. It’s a tough road, but taking care of ourselves is key to avoiding burnout and being able to have a long, fulfilling career in mental health. Keep taking care of yourself, you’re making a difference every day.

Hey, I can totally relate to what you’re going through. As a mental health worker, I understand how hearing about others’ trauma can really take a toll on our own mental health. It’s so easy to brush off the signs of secondary traumatic stress as just part of the job, but it’s really important that we address it and take care of ourselves. I’ve found that practicing mindfulness and setting boundaries between work and personal life has made a huge difference for me. It’s not selfish to take care of ourselves - it’s necessary in order to continue helping others. Keep taking those steps to address the underlying issues and prioritize your own well-being. You’re not alone in this, and I’m here if you ever need to chat about it.