Psychological trauma in a relief worker--a case report from earthquake-struck areas of north Pakistan

Prehosp Disaster Med. Sep-Oct 2007;22(5):458-61. doi: 10.1017/s1049023x00005215.


Vicarious traumatization is now a well-known entity and may have negative influences on those that are involved in rescue efforts in any disaster or traumatic events. Healthcare workers work with trauma survivors and witness an immense array of gruesome and ghastly images. This work has the potential to cause those engaged in rescue efforts to become affected subconsciously. Job-related stress may cause psychological symptoms in care providers who provide support and listen to the survivors' account of trauma. A therapist working in disaster situations may become a victim of psychological anguish--undermining their physical and mental well-being as well as their profession, adversely affecting their traumatized patients, and leading to a counter-productive therapist-survivor relationship. This significant theme of secondary trauma must be recognized in relief workers at early stages and must be addressed at an individual as well as organizational level. The key may lie in turning to social supports, adapting positive coping mechanisms, and subsequently seeking mental health consultation. Further research is required in this area to determine the best resolution.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Disasters*
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pakistan
  • Relief Work*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*