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The adverse effects of burnout and compassion fatigue among mental health practitioners: Self-care strategies for prevention and mitigation

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Natalie Salameh

 

Abstract

Over the years, a body of empiricism and conceptual frameworks has burgeoned related to the emotional toll often exacted on mental health practitioners engaged in the helping field—an emotional toll often denoted as burnout and compassion fatigue. This article delineates the concepts of burnout and compassion fatigue and their adverse, often catastrophic, effects on mental health practitioners’ personal and professional functioning when left unaddressed. The article also highlights the more recent research relating to the changes and challenges brought about by the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and its exacerbation of burnout and compassion fatigue among mental health practitioners. Finally, the article highlights practical, empirically validated, and efficacious self-care strategies for individual practitioners and organisations to utilise in preventing and mitigating the adverse effects of burnout and compassion fatigue. The latter are: walking or other forms of exercise; engaging regularly in mindfulness and meditation practices; seeking support from family and friends; engaging in pleasurable activities, such as taking a holiday and socialising; and personal psychotherapy. The top five best practice strategies for office/practice managers are: instituting reasonable working hours and caseloads for mental health practitioners; optimising working spaces and consulting rooms; providing adequate break times throughout the working day; providing ample opportunities for peer support, clinical supervision, and other debriefing initiatives; and facilitating occasional team-building and wellbeing days.

 

Keywords: burnout, compassion fatigue, stress, mental health practitioners, helping professionals, self-care, wellbeing, COVID-19 pandemic

 

Address for Correspondence
Natalie Salameh

natalie.salameh@my.nd.edu.au