Secondary Traumatic Stress
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.” (The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development)
Why is it important to prevent and address STS in the workforce?
The Washington State Legislature recently passed an initiative (HB 1363) to address secondary trauma in the K-12 workforce. This legislation acknowledges the significant toll STS has on educators, and subsequently on students. Educators often experience STS more than other professions due to the persistent exposure to and caretaking of students with emotionally painful experiences. Symptoms of STS may include feelings of isolation, anxiety, dissociation, physical ailments, and sleep disturbances. This can lead to staff turnover, burnout, adult chronic absenteeism, and health issues which negatively impacts everyone in the school community.
The Snoqualmie Valley School District (“District”) is committed to preventing and addressing STS 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 established a Workforce Mental Health Committee to share resources, supports, and links to a self-assessment tool.
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.
- SmartHealth by Limeade Video explains the benefits of the SmartHealth program.
- First Choice 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.
- Board Policy #5515 and Procedure #5515P explain why STS is important and provide more information.