School PR pros may not be paramedics, victim services or law enforcement, but we’re among the growing list of professionals who could be affected by vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.
We’re among the first to respond in our districts. We work with senior officials, social workers, police and administrators to support staff and family well-being. We hear, and must process, the most difficult, traumatic and unimaginable situations that our families experience.
And it’s not just the issues in our local communities that take a toll on our well-being; in our roles, we’re also confronted with national and international tragedies that unfold before our eyes.
After the tragic death of 17 students in Parkland, Florida, we’ve seen a rise in student voice and protest. We’re seeing the revictimization of those telling their stories about gun violence in the hopes these events never happen again.
Last month in Saskatchewan, a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck, killing 16 people and injuring 13. Later in April, a man driving a van through Toronto intentionally killed 10 pedestrians – one of whom was an employee of the Toronto District School Board.
The social anxiety of these topics permeates the psyche of our society, in our schools – and 24-7 on social media.
In school PR, like it or not, these are conversations we must navigate daily because we know these impact the well-being of our students, staff and communities.
Our profession requires us to constantly be connected and available. We must be on top of current events, news and social media – both our own school system’s conversations and monitoring in general.
We must analyze and gauge the pulse of our communities to support parents as they have conversations at home and equip teachers with resources to care for students who are emotionally impacted.
Nonstop coverage of traumatic events can cause us to feel traumatized, even if we were not directly impacted by the trauma or tragedy. Social media takes this dynamic to a whole new level.
It’s critical that we, as a professional network, take care of each other. We must recognize and support one another when the weight of our work is too heavy to bear.
Self-care strategies to try:
- Take a break from watching the media
- Recharge with family and friends
- Talk to your director or superintendent when you’re feeling drained
- Be social. Or don’t – that’s okay!
- Set boundaries
- Get outside
- Disconnect from electronics when you can
- Eat well, stay active, treat yourself and get rest!
It’s time that we wrap a ring of empathy around our professional network. It’s when we take notice of our own mental health that we’re able to help others heal and recognize that – in all this tragedy – the human spirit will prevail.