If you work in a mental health or social service setting you are likely to experience an event you will define as traumatic at some point in your work life. For some, the personal experience of exposure to violence, injury and sudden death are events that are unfortunately common. Murder, suicide, unintentional and intentional injury, or sexual assault – when they occur in an organizational setting - are likely to make the newspaper, but less likely to be thoroughly addressed at an organizational level. Sometimes you may be the person injured; other times you may be responsible for someone who is injured, a witness to the event, a colleague of the person(s) most affected, a supervisor, or administrator in charge. But when an event occurs in an organizational setting like a clinic, hospital, day treatment program, or residential facility, every member of the organization is affected by the events because of our fundamental group nature, our vulnerability to emotional contagion and to dynamic group effects. Trauma is collective.
A significant aspect of job stress is level of risk and it is the high degree of risk and the fear attendant on that risk that has been a significant contributor to why so many individuals and institutions in the mental health system have been reluctant to change established practices of seclusion and restraint and forced medication, even though these practices are so frequently associated with negative - sometimes disastrous - outcomes in the patients and for the staff.
Excerpt from Bloom, S. L. and Farragher, B. (2010) Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Service Delivery Systems. New York: Oxford University Press.