This month, Monitor on Psychology (September, 2013) stresses the need for more psychologists and other care-giving professionals with training in trauma management. Of course this includes working with victims of natural disasters, military combat, political turmoil and post-traumatic stress disorders.
But the Monitor introduced me to continuous traumatic stress (CTS), a term that originated years ago in South Africa. CTS is ongoing and often inescapable. Unlike stresses that occurred in the past, these are ever-present daily realities that include living in poverty, crime-infested areas, abusive environments and constant famine. I have a friend, a college graduate and young professional who was brought to the United States illegally as a child but has grown up living in the fear of being discovered and deported to a country that he has never known with a language that he does not understand. Unlike victims of past stress, these are people with no place to go for help or safety and often with no hope or way of escape.
Could on-going stress in the workplace be similar ? The Monitor describes bullying and other stresses at work as well as in schools. Undoubtedly these are easier to tackle than genocide or human trafficking but they too provide continuous trauma. For people with no job alternatives and limited credentials for finding alternate employment, entire lives may be spent trapped in jobs that bring constant misery. This is worse when there is job insecurity, long hours or lack of social support at work.
I did some cursory research that confirmed what the Monitor demonstrated in its articles. Describing CTS is common. Providing treatment options is much more difficult. Individual treatment is of limited help when whole communities are impacted—like gang dominated neighborhoods or racially prejudiced environments. Community-wide interventions are difficult and governments rarely take action. Sometimes businesses, schools, churches or community activists work to bring changes but how often does this work?
Is the only alternative to look the other way and get on with our lives? I like these weekly posts to be upbeat and positive but that’s not today. Some courageous people try to take action and bring improvements but it can be thankless work. What’s the answer to this depressing story? What would Jesus do? What have you done? Please comment.