This is an extract from the Headington Institute’s publication, ‘Family Matters: Self Care for Family Members of Humanitarian Workers’. The full publication is available here.
I saw too many of my fellow relief workers get totally burned out. I am certain that if they had been more reassured that their reactions were mostly normal they would have known how to cope
This Headington Institute publication takes a look at the importance of family and friends in the lives of humanitarian workers. It focuses on the various types of stress and how to recognise it. And provides strategies & skills for strengthening your resilience, hardiness, and vitality. All useful stuff for family members!
Few careers can impact an entire family like humanitarian work. It is rarely just a 9-to-5 job. Everyone in the family – the humanitarian worker, partner, and children – can be enriched by the diverse experiences and opportunities to help others that come with this work. But humanitarian work can also bring stressful challenges that test relationships and the stability of the entire family unit. Often, both are true.
Most humanitarian workers say that their families are extremely important to them, and “separation from family” is often listed by humanitarian workers as one of the most stressful aspects of their job. Research supports this. Humanitarian workers without strong family or friendship networks are much more likely to get physically sick and experience high levels of stress.
Families play a key role in supporting humanitarian workers, yet few support services and little information are offered to these families. As a result, partners and families can become isolated and overwhelmed, relationships can suffer, and work may be compromised.
Everyone benefits when families are equipped to understand and cope with the inevitable pressures of humanitarian work. Partners and children end up healthier and happier and, as a result, so do the humanitarian workers.