Common Ground: Disaster Psychology and Vicarious Resilience

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Photo credit: Adrian Pantea

Facility restoration and collections conservation are two of the most commonly sought after disaster relief services for archives. Disaster relief services regarding staff’s health is equally as important as the state of the facility and collection. The emotional toll of disaster recovery and remediation can be a physical, as well as a mental burden on staff members. Psychologists are often called on scene during emergencies and disasters to provide emotional support to victims, survivors, volunteers and disaster relief operations workers. Psychological trauma, also known as vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion fatigue is not an uncommon experience for persons after a major event.

It is recommended to hold staff training meetings to practice disaster response scenarios. While it is important to practice staff and collection evacuation techniques, it is also important to foster staff coping strategies, called ‘vicarious resilience’. Staff can be familiarized with coping strategies by referring to disaster psychology books, such as, Vicarious Trauma and Disaster Mental Health: Understanding Risks and Promoting Resilience by authors Gertie Quitangon and Mark Evces. Practicing the coping strategies will help staff mentally prepare for traumatic events as well as cope with the emotional trauma caused by these events after they have occurred.

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