Its not often you get a book review that is so glowing you get a sense of pride swell up inside you, but this is one review Fiona is very proud to share with everyone.
Written by Tobias Denskus who is a researcher and teacher, this review comes from someone within the industry and with vast experience in the humanitarian aid sector. He is a Senior Lecturer in Communication for Development in the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University in Sweden. Tobias declares himself as a citizen of Aidland, having worked, lived, listened to people and experiencing international peacebuilding in Nepal, humanitarian work in Kabul, Afghanistan and research on German peacebuilding projects in Macedonia. Tobias completed his PhD at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex and the wonders of transnational aid communities never cease to surprise him.
As it often happens with my books reviews for the blog there is an element of chance and surprise involved when discovering a great book for review. Fiona Dunkley’s Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Roadmap of Trauma and Critical Incident Care is no exception-it probably popped up in my Twitter feed or in a post in the 50 Shades of Aid Facebook group.
In light of the #AidToo developments and longer-term discussion in the industry about staff care, well-being and psychological support this is obviously an important and timely book.
As a researcher and teacher I am always a bit skeptical when authors or endorsements promise a book with relevance ‘for everybody in the industry’, but Psychological Support delivers on that front: There are parts written with a self-help framework in mind, but most importantly, as the subtitle suggest, it is a self-mapping book. It provides a roadmap for individuals about how to prevent trauma or get help and at the same time provides a professional framework for those who provide or manage care, have humanitarian aid worker family and friends or have a research or pedagogical interest in models around such support.
Dunkley’s vignettes, based on extensive work in- and outside the humanitarian industry, are powerful, tough stories and the theoretical framework around psychology and cognitive science helps the reader not to feel overwhelmed while at the same time being reminded compassionately that psychosocial support is not a simple ‘toolbox’ or ‘guideline’ that should be buried inside your computer.
Another important reminder in her book is that with the expansion of the aid industry trauma is not just limited to front line staff:
Journalists, therapists, aid workers, medical staff, social workers and care workers can all be exposed to vicarious trauma. Likewise, office staff can be exposed vicariously to trauma. This was highlighted in the Ebola response. Aid workers that were exposed to stories remotely started to experience trauma symptoms and requested psychological support (p.14).
And while Dunkley’s book is certainly on a difficult subject, it is neither a discouraging let alone defeatist read.
Cultural relevance as a key to good aid work, healthy aid workers and resilient communities
There is such a lot of useful, practical material in the book, but one final aspects I would like to highlight is the chapter on Cultural relevance of psychosocial support. Many of the aspects are important reminder that apply to all good aid work.
As I wrote in a recent post about some trends in aid industry employment, looking after those who provide aid is going to be an area of growth that deserves highest professional standards.
Returning to where my review started, Psychological Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers is an excellent resource that creates an important road map from knowing about trauma, building resilience, managing emergencies and creating a comprehensive ‘grab bag’ in a professional, culturally appropriate way.
To read the full review, and others, please visit Tobias’s blog here: click here
Get a copy of the book
Fiona's book, Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers, is available from Amazon.