Emotional demands, compassion and mental health in social workers
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AbstractBackground: Compassion, described as the act of providing care based on empathy, dignity and respect, is intrinsic to effective health and social care. Although delivering compassionate care has wide-ranging benefits for service users, more insight is needed into its effects on health and social care professionals. The emotional demands of ‘helping’ work can engender compassion fatigue that may impair wellbeing, whereas compassion satisfaction and feelings of compassion towards the self could be protective. Aims: To examine the effects (direct and indirect) of compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue and self-compassion on mental health in a cohort of social workers. Methods: We used validated scales to measure emotional demands, compassion satisfaction and fatigue, and self-compassion and the General Health Questionnaire-12 to assess mental health. We tested the main and moderating effects of emotional demands and the three facets of compassion using hierarchical regression analysis. Results: The study sample comprised 306 social workers (79% female). Participants who reported higher levels of compassion satisfaction and self-compassion tended to report better mental health, whereas compassion fatigue was a significant risk factor for wellbeing. The models explained 44% - 53% of the variance in mental health symptoms. We found some evidence that compassion satisfaction and self-compassion buffer the negative effects of emotional demand on mental health, contributing 2% and 3% respectively to the incremental variance. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that evidence-based interventions are needed to reduce compassion fatigue and enhance compassion satisfaction and self-compassion in social care work. We consider ways to accomplish this using targeted interventions.
CitationKinman G, Grant L (2019) 'Emotional demands, compassion and mental health in social workers', Occupational Medicine, 70(2), pp.89–94
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