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Role Stress in Front Line Workers during the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic: the value of therapeutic spaces

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2007
JournalAustralasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies
Volume2
Number of pages1
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) (See footnote 1) crisis represents one of the greatest social upheavals in the United Kingdom since the Second World War, as well as one of the world’s largest ever epidemics of the virus. In order to deal with an epidemic of this magnitude, The Department of Environment Farming & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) needed to second and reassign staff (many from other government organisations such as the Environment Agency) to work on the ‘front line’ of the crisis, often in dangerous and highly stressful environments. These workers typically received little training to prepare them for their ‘roles’, and what limited preparation they did receive often contrasted strongly with practical experiences, they thus found themselves working in unpredictable and chaotic situations. Based on a longitudinal ethnographic study of the health and social consequences of the 2001 FMD epidemic, our research (See footnote 2) indicates that repeated exposure to distress and suffering led some of these front-line workers to experience what we term ‘post traumatic experience’. The study raises a number of issues relevant to the evolving concept of occupational health in increasingly fractured and ambiguous domains of work and particularly in disaster and post-disaster situations.