Dr Cait McMahon, Dart Centre, Asia Pacific has presented a workshop at this years CBAA conference on the possible trauma that can be suffered by volunteers covering disasters such as fire, floods or pandemics.
With increasing pressure on media, including community radio stations, to be in the “eye of the storm”, and greater expectations from the community, it can be easy to lose sight of the dual roles of volunteers who are both community members and reporters.
The closer the disaster is, the more likely it is to have an effect on volunteers, especially when they are reporting on something that is happening in their back yard, and the PTSD can be on par with emergency service personnel.
For community broadcasters, covering family and domestic violence, fires, floods cyclones, drought, Black Lives Matter and colonisation issues, suicide and mental health, refugees and asylum seeker can all lead to trauma.
Station leaders should
- Become trauma literate
- Create a trauma informed culture
- Foster group cohesion
- Be proactive, not reactive, and intervene early
- Build in recovery periods
- Have after even discussions
- Encourage social and peer support
- Create processes and procedures for trauma coverage
- Factor in psychological support and education as part of any funding on trauma issues
During the event, it is important to lead by example because for volunteers there is little training leading into or during a disaster.
- Check in
- Listen for fatigue and distress levels
- Set an example in self care
- Watch your language as people are likely to by more raw
- Be careful with the timing and pitch of an criticism
After the event
- Follow up
- Assess levels of distress
- Ensure social connection and peer support
- Revisit trauma literacy
- Listen and give a damn
- Link into psychological support locally