While social media provides us with the ability to stay connected and aware of the events happening in the lives of friends and family, it also bombards us with stories, images, and videos of violent events happening to people all over the world. I was reading an article this week that referenced some research that was released in early 2015 about the effects of viewing violent images and video on social media. The research “indicated that 22 percent of participants were significantly affected by the media events. These individuals scored high on clinical measures of PTSD even though none had previous trauma, were not present at the traumatic events and had only watched them via social media.” (You can read a summary of the research on the British Psychological Society website by following the link at the bottom of the page.)
For many years, The Mandt System has taught participants to be aware of the secondary or vicarious trauma that staff in our facilities may experience from interacting with individuals with trauma histories. The research mentioned above indicates that we may need to be aware of it in the lives of anyone we know or interact with. It seems that many more people in our society are more fearful and anxious than in the past. I wonder how big a role social media plays in those situations.
Keeping this in mind, can we work within our organizations to be more aware of how trauma from this type of exposure may be affecting our co-workers and the people we serve? In our everyday lives, when we interact with people who have strong emotional reactions that seem to be rooted in fear and anxiety, can we be mindful that those reactions may be the result of traumatization? I think we can, but it will require us to be a more kind, patient, and understanding with others. Also, since it is difficult to support someone else when you are not stable yourself, it will require us to more aware of these effects in our own lives.
Doug ZehrVogt- Mandt System Faculty