Best Practice

Staff wellbeing: Secondary traumatic stress

Secondary trauma occurs when the act of supporting a traumatised young person becomes traumatic in itself – and it is a danger teachers should be aware of. Darren Martindale advises

Most teachers have felt it – that creeping, embodied sense of fear or dread when a certain pupil enters the classroom or before they walk in. It might, actually, have begun before you got up that morning.

You’d never admit to it, because you are a professional. In the more extreme cases, however, the tightening knot in the pit of your stomach is not just a symptom of everyday stress, and it certainly isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. You may be starting to suffer from secondary traumatic stress – where supporting a traumatised person becomes traumatic in itself – and this must be very carefully managed because it can damage your health and shorten your career.

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