Saturday, June 8, 2013

Keep the fires burning

Burnout or Compassion Fatigue?
We have 2 weeks left in what has been my most difficult year ever as a school counselor.  In the elementary school where I am the full-time counselor we have had to activate the crisis team four times to deal with a death in our learning community.  In just one grade we have had 3 parents die and we had a younger sibling die as well.  It has been really tough, especially since the last 2 deaths occurred within 2 weeks of one another.
I have been asked by parents if I am suffering from burnout.  Actually you know when it has been a tough school year when parents are worried about the counselor's mental health and coping ability.  I say no because I view burnout as stemming from a negative work environment caused by the schedule and other climate factors.
I do honestly tell them I am suffering from compassion fatigue.  Being the only mental health professional in a building full-time with back to back losses is tough.  I am fortunate that my part-time counselor, social worker, and psychologist are all excellent support.  Unfortunately we we without the help of our psychologist the last 2 crisis because she is on family leave.
Compassion fatigue is common in the health care and mental health business.  When care givers can't meet the needs of those who are suffering it leads to this overwhelming feeling of fatigue.  I am physically exhausted to the point my whole body aches. I am taking it easy on myself this weekend because Monday will be here soon.  I want to be available for the students and families who have suffered these losses.  Luckily now I know my beach vacation is within sight of the finish line.

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