Burn Out.

*** This touches on a few difficult subjects so am giving it a ‘warning before reading’ statement.

I’ve been struggling lately, there is so much I want to talk about and so much I want to say, whenever I sit in front of my laptop with the blog open my mind becomes overwhelmed and I just freeze. This leads to me closing down the screen and going another week without getting anything off my chest. I realise this is because I am not just writing about violence and trauma, I am not just working in the field or running a company, I am experiencing it.

I am a woman of mixed heritage, who has dealt with violence and trauma both in my personal and professional life. I work around violence and trauma daily, then go back to a community where I have seen dead bodies laying on the street more than I dare to count. I have lost loved ones to early graves and life sentences. I have seen more than a few friends develop mental health issues. I have lost sleep going through memories thinking of how I could have stopped people committing suicide. I’ve felt the ways systemic violence via poverty and oppression can make you feel completely powerless and how racism can burn into the depths of your heart. At work I have dealt with more deaths than I care to remember, sexual abuse cases that leave me without words, and more stabbings than I even want to think about, I even once had to catch a young man who tried to hang himself in front of me. I’ve sat for hours listening to young people bare their souls, wondering how they’ve even made it this far. I’ve sat with other professionals and community leaders, who have had similar experiences, whilst they have cried their eyes out due to the overwhelming range of emotions this work/lifestyle has left them with,

You see there are some of us in this sector that have to do this work, it is our purpose, it is who we are. We have deep empathy and compassion for who we serve because we know they are us. The problem with this is that we burn out, we give our all to what we do and never take enough time for ourselves, to heal the open wounds that led us onto this path in the first place.

This is a unregulated sector. You don’t need any special qualifications or experience, you don’t have to prove that you get support or have the way you work monitored, you are pretty much left to it.

It’s not helpful.

We need better support systems in place so we don’t burn out. We need places to learn to continue to perfect our work. We need clinical spaces to vent and heal our own pain. We need to be held to account for the work that we do, to promote best practice but also get rid of some of the dangerous work that does more harm than good.

For the serious youth violence sector to still be largely unregulated and not monitored, for specialist training to be unheard off and clinical supervision to be for the privileged few, it just goes to show how undervalued and not respected the work we do is. It also goes to show how little the young people we work with are truly thought about.

From a psychoanalytical perceptive, we might argue that what we deal with on a day to day is too difficult for society to think about, so they don’t. We all have a darkness in us but when that is reflected to us we become frightened, uncomfortable and don’t want to deal with it, so it is ignored. Is that what is happening to the serious youth violence sector? Are we the ones that hold the weight of violence so others don’t have to?

We see many initiatives come and go, that focus on academic research, questionnaires and consultations, many of which give us the same results year after year. What we do not see enough of is a real investment in those on the ground doing the work. We need more investment in those doing the work.

To add to the above, there are a few questions/statements I wish to add for those who have taken the time to read this:

  1. To the under 25’s who run community organisations/social enterprises – what help/support do you need? If you could have workshops put on just for you, what would they be focused on?
  2. To practitioners in the field, what do you need? Again, if you could have workshops put on just for you, what would they be focused on?
  3. I am currently developing a two year clinical course that focuses on understanding violence and trauma using a therapeutic community model; we are just starting our second year and I will be doing a write up shortly. If you are interested in attending this training in the future please let me know.
  4. I am also running a short course for six weeks starting in Oct focused on understanding violence and trauma https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/understanding-violence-6-week-course-0510-0911-every-thursday-2pm-6pm-tickets-35105550647
  5.  I started developing training because I couldn’t find any training that met my needs, so I am creating the courses that I wanted to attend – all feedback is welcome.

We need to remain solution focused, even if that means doing for ourselves, personally I’ve taken a step back from front-line work because I believe it is time to invest more in front-line practitioners. Let’s talk more, let’s share thoughts, let’s promote best practice and find the solutions that are needed.

Of course this is just my opinion, I know I could be wrong and some may disagreed. I speak only from my own experience and perception.

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