What is unfolding in our world today increasingly resembles the Theatre of the Absurd.
The continuous stream of horrifying events – from the harrowing genocide in Ukraine to the hair-raising occurrences in Israel – bombards us daily, leaving their marks on us, whether we want it or not. These events are so devastating, and the way they are now conveyed to us via the media, including but not confined to the LinkedIn feed, has a real potential to traumatize and influence our mental health and overall well-being.
Trauma is not only PTSD
Trauma doesn’t always escalate to PTSD; its effects can be subtle, yet they are always pervasive. Many might not even recognize their trauma, continuing with their lives while grappling with its invisible burden. The sudden flash of a memory – like an image from one of the footage videos everyone has seen – which in turn also triggers the negative emotions it should (including a profound sense of helplessness) is a reliable sign that the exposure to this piece had a traumatic effect. Flashes of memories and re-experiencing emotions associated with them are hallmarks of trauma.
Gradually, more signs of trauma become apparent. You might find yourself getting tired more easily than usual, becoming less productive and creative, and feeling a lack of motivation. As trauma deepens with more and more exposure, dissociation often develops. This is a sensation of becoming increasingly detached from and unaware of your own emotions, which become more vague and eventually evolve into a self-perpetuating, insidious feeling of anxiety, slowly eroding your well-being like water undermining a foundation, or like termites devouring the strongest of trees silently from the inside. Much like the silent and gradual infiltration of tens of millions of individuals with hostile ideologies into our societies, and the intoxication by extremist, self-defeating views in some of the best among us, all happened before we realized we were bankrupt in means to cope with this invasion. Just as we struggle to address the societal contagion we are suffering from, so too do we contend with the creeping effects of trauma, often not recognizing its presence until it has firmly taken hold.
The fallout? It’s widespread and deeply penetrating. On one end of the spectrum, there is a noticeable dip in emotional intelligence, a chokehold on creativity, and a significant draining of energy. These are just the tip of the iceberg. On the far end, where the weight of trauma bears down heaviest, there is depression, addictions, uncontrollable bursts of aggression, and suicide. Physical health is affected throughout. And remember, this isn’t a fringe phenomenon – the exposure is massive, affecting us all in varying degrees.
Why am I broaching this heavy topic?
I know for a fact that our workplaces hold immense potential in mitigating the development and entrenchment of trauma, and it is in the genuine interest of employers to ensure that this issue is being addressed in their organizations if they want to maintain their productivity.
For many of us, our jobs are more than just a source of income; they provide a sense of purpose and belonging. This aspect is incredibly powerful, often more so than compensation itself, and if harnessed correctly, can play a crucial role in supporting mental health and resilience.
What to do?
- Listen to Your Employees. Tune into your employees’ needs. Provide more flexibility and enhance internal mobility, allowing employees to engage in work they are passionate about, not just tasks they are skilled at.
- Promote Trauma Awareness. Educate your workforce on the signs of trauma and its impact on individuals. Ensure that you have approachable and accessible support for those who may be struggling.
- Provide Mental Health Resources. Make mental health services readily available. This includes access to counseling, employee assistance programs, and referrals to mental health professionals.
- Develop Supportive Policies. Implement policies that bolster mental health and well-being. Consider paid mental health days, a no-questions-asked policy for mental health leave, and support for attending medical appointments.
- Remember to Show that You Care. Encourage managers to regularly check in with their team members about their well-being, not just their work. Early identification of issues and providing support where needed, reinforces the message that employees are valued beyond their work contributions.
- Arrange Support Groups. Facilitate or sponsor support groups where employees can safely and confidentially share their experiences and coping strategies.
- Extend Inclusivity and Diversity. Recognize trauma in your inclusivity and diversity policies. Provide an accommodating environment for employees suffering from trauma, in line with the support offered to other categories in your inclusion and diversity programs.
- Be a Role Model. Leaders should openly acknowledge their own experiences with trauma, helping to destigmatize the use of mental health resources. Promote open communication about mental health issues within the organization.
An Old Psychometrician’s Final Note
Lastly, as a psychometrics professional, I want to highlight the utility of incorporating psychological assessments into workplace practices to support mental health. In their 2010 research paper “Meta-analysis of psychological assessment as a therapeutic intervention“, John M. Poston and William E. Hanson assert that psychological assessment procedures, when combined with personalized, collaborative, and highly involving test feedback, have positive and clinically meaningful effects on mitigating the impacts of trauma. This approach doesn’t seem like a difficult measure to implement, does it?
This is a guest post by Alina Oshyna Shabatov, a senior experienced psychometrician from Ukraine – Israel who’s been working with Gyfted since 2021 and now runs her own independent psychometrics lab – PsyLab – focusing on resilience, stress management and custom psychometric development as part of her practice.