Compassion Fatigue

As a Peer Support Specialist, I have to be very cautious about taking care of myself.  Yes, I am in recovery, but I am not cured. I still have what is considered a serious mental illness.  If I were to forget to take my medication for a few days or go without sleep, the symptoms of Bipolar could return.  Stress is also a major factor.  Therapy while working in a full-time job position is very important to my health.


I recently attended a conference for Peer Support Specialists across the state.  I attended a workshop entitled, “Compassion Fatigue.”  Occupations in which people must work with those who are experiencing trauma can experience this.  Emergency room nurses, mental health clinicians, social workers, Peer Support Specialists, and other fields in which compassion is a constant job requirement can experience Compassion Fatigue.  One woman told her story of such an experience.


Some of the symptoms of this fatigue, according to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, are “apathy, bottled up emotions, substance abuse, and isolation from others.” In an organization or institution, the fatigue can result in:

  • High absenteeism
  • Constant changes in co-workers relationships
  • Inability for teams to work well together
  • Desire among staff members to break company rules
  • Outbreaks of aggressive behaviors among staff
  • Inability of staff to complete assignments and tasks
  • Inability of staff to respect and meet deadlines
  • Lack of flexibility among staff members
  • Negativism towards management
  • Strong reluctance toward change
  • Inability of staff to believe improvement is possible
  • Lack of a vision for the future


When I first began seeing my therapist, he said I came into his office in terrible shape.  The point is…I got better, but it took work.  Therapy is awesome and I think anyone can benefit.  I definitely have, and I talk about how it helped me to my peers, (the patients), in the hospital.


Rebecca Coursey, KPS
Peer Support Specialist


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