What is Secondary Traumatic Stress?
Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is the emotional distress that arises when someone vicariously experiences the traumatic experiences of another individual. Sometimes known as compassion fatigue, the toll of tending to someone's painful experiences can create very real symptoms in caregivers, including teachers. (OSPI Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress).
Why is it important to prevent and address Secondary Traumatic Stress in the workforce?
During the 2021-22 Washington State Legislation, an initiative (HB 1363) was passed to address secondary trauma in the K-12 Workforce. The legislation acknowledges that secondary traumatic stress, also called compassion fatigue, is a natural but disruptive set of symptoms' that may result when on person learns firsthand of the traumatic experience of another. Educators often experience Secondary Traumatic Stress more than other professions due to the persistent exposure to and caretaking of students with emotionally painful experiences. Symptoms of secondary traumatic stress may include feelings of isolation, anxiety, dissociation, physical ailments, and sleep disturbances. In addition, those affected by secondary traumatic stress may experience: Changes in memory and perception; alterations in their sense of self-efficacy; a depletion of personal resources; and disruption in their perceptions of safety, trust and independence. This can lead to staff turnover, burnout, adult chronic absenteeism, and health issues which negatively impacts everyone in the school community.
The Cle Elum Roslyn School District is committed to preventing and addressing Secondary Traumatic Stress for personnel by supporting mental health in the workplace and promoting a positive workplace climate that includes a focus on diversity and inclusion. The District has established a Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress Committee to share resources, supports, and link to a self-assessment tool. Along with that, the Committee is also working to create positive events and activities to assist with the mental wellbeing of our staff.
Where can I find resources and more information?
The OSPI Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress Website explains the legislative requirements and provides STS resources.
The Impact of Secondary Trauma on Educators defines STS, lists the symptoms, and explains how STS can be treated.
WA Educators Secondary Traumatic Stress Resources contains the tools you need to implement Washington State’s SHB1363.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation Action Center provides guidance to create healthier environments that support students’ physical, social, and emotional well-being. Their Thriving Schools Integrated Assessment covers educator wellbeing. Note: you will be prompted to create a free account to log in.
SmartHealth supports you on your journey toward living well. This is Washington State’s voluntary wellness program included in your SEBB benefits at no cost to you.
RCW 28A.300.825 Secondary Traumatic Stress Resources
Employee Assistance Program offers assessment and referral, clinical support, and crisis services for critical incidents, along with a wide range of tools and resources. This free service is provided to employees and eligible family members.
See the district's policy for more Secondary Traumatic Stress information: Policy 5155.