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Old 03-04-2009
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Originally Posted by stmelangell View Post
Well, kinda ... the most recent study (2005) indicates that about 50% of animal workers have symptoms of compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), which is "our" brand of PTSD. An earlier study (1992) indicated a level of PTSD in animal services workers as high or higher than police, fire, and emergency services workers -- but lately they're classifying PTSD more strictly, as a byproduct of trauma to the individual rather than the secondary trauma of watching trauma happen. I would argue (and probably will, in my master's thesis, heh heh heh ) that ACOs are as likely to suffer direct trauma as PD or fire, so you can't necessarily assume that shelter workers are exempt from PTSD even in its newer definition.

As far as stress relief, gotta go with what works, applied as needed as often as needed:

(1) External support (friends and fellow ACOs).

(2) Internal support (relaxation techniques and a good strong spiritual foundation).

(3) Getting away from it (hobbies, exercise, and vacations)

This site works for me! Have I said that


yet today?
Thank you stmelangell,

I'm glad to see this is being followed up on since my days in AC. And who better than an ACO to write a thesis on this topic. What I made bold text in your comments, is the key! As often as needed.

There is a secondary reason I brought this topic up that I will get to. But because of that, I was curious if this was being mentioned or taught in the training you all have today. Because of the seriousness of this particular problem.

When I was on the job and would reach a stressed out time, I'd take what is called nowadays as a "Mental Health" day (I've heard this term in other professions). I'd call in sick on a Wednesday. I made sure that it was on average going to be a slow day. I didn't want to put a burden on my fellow ACO's by taking off on a day that they were going to be swamped. But the following Thursday I would feel rested and refreshed again. I just needed the time off, and recognized that. The thing is, when I left I had over 400 hours of unused sick time still on the books. I rarely get physically sick like the flu and things like that, so I had plenty of sick time.

At the training classes we discussed the many different issues that we were faced with. Having only been in AC for six months at the time, I had limited input. But as time went on, I saw what the others had brought up in this discussion to be true. I have a copy of the article that was published in the NACA News back in 1986 if you're interested in it. It was about our training session/discussion on this topic.

The secondary reason I bring this up is because stress can have devastating effects on our body and mind. Which is some of what we discussed that week in 1983. All three of the things you brought up are the key. We tend to forget about the person (us) who is dealing with all of what we see and do in the field. Because we love and care for animals so much, and this is why we got into the field (many times) in the first place. We see the injustices with how animals are treated and so on. This can eat away at us if we don't take care of ourselves. But sometimes we can be overwhelmed by it, by no fault of our own.

I'm not suggesting here, that everybody decide to take a day off from work to achieve this. You can do this on your days off (whatever is Saturday and Sunday for you). But an ocassional day off from the job for mental health reasons I believe would be acceptable. But my suggestion is this, take a day off from the job in your mind. I know how funny that may sound, but what I mean is, don't let anything from the job seep in. Do whatever is "fun" for you. Leave the job behind and don't think about it at all. Not even if you are on a trip and see a loose dog, put it out of your mind as though you aren't an ACO.
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