Wilhelm Therapy > Blog > How big of a problem is work-related trauma exposure?

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Let’s be honest, trauma is a hot issue right now. There are articles and buzzwords and initiatives and modalities about trauma and how best to address it. The explosion of trauma awareness is not a bad thing and is warranted. According to SAMSA, 61% of men and 51% of women in the United States report experiencing at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime.

Frankly, that stat seems low. Experience with trauma is an extremely helpful lens through which to see the people we interact with as professionals. We’re learning more and more about trauma all the time, specifically how the body and brain experience it.

Conversations about ACES, racism-based trauma, or PTSD are more frequent and the topics are better understood. Again, all of this is good. However, it is not so good when the professionals who dedicate their careers to working with people with trauma are not given equal care and consideration for what they experience.

The research on the impact of trauma on providers is not new. It’s been around for decades, but it has not been given the breadth, depth, or resources as research into trauma-effective client care. While I have not conducted a formal research study (yet – it’s coming), informally I am not aware of anyone who helps others with trauma who hasn’t struggled with the impact of trauma exposure themselves at some point in their careers.

When I started looking into the statistics of rates of PTSD or STS in providers, it wasn’t hard to find the numbers. For example, regarding police officers, Psychology Today reported that between 7-19% of officers experience PTSD. However, those statistics are based on self-reporting by police officers.

When you consider the stigma involved in these types of professions with acknowledging any kind of work-related issues or struggles, as well as the high rates of suicide for officers, I have to believe that number is much higher. ER doctors have a PTSD rate that is double that of the general population. Rates of PTSD for child protection workers are notoriously high.

It is important to have data about the impact of trauma work on professionals. Data drives initiatives for change and gives us proof that we aren’t alone, and our experiences are real. However, data alone isn’t going to move the needle.

If it could, there would be far more focus on helping those suffering from Provider Trauma then we see today. No matter the actual percentage, there’s no denying Provider Trauma is an issue that impacts professionals daily, and it’s well past time to give it the attention it deserves.