Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences


Secondary trauma of lay mental health workers


A general consensus exists in the literature that working with a trauma population will produce negative personal, psychological, and professional consequences including secondary trauma. However, a significant research gap occurs with regard to how secondary trauma affects psychosocial assistants (PAs) who work in low-resource and conflict-stricken Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is plagued by psychological problems resulting from numerous past and ongoing conflicts, but sufficient trained mental health personnel and resources are lacking. As a result, the dire responsibility of providing mental health services to survivors of rape has shifted to minimally trained PAs. This phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of secondary trauma through face-to-face interviews with 13 PAs in Bukavu. The findings of this study could potentially motivate further research, which will bridge the gap in the understanding of secondary trauma of PAs in the DRC and similar locations. Additionally, this study may be instrumental in restructuring policies and delivery methods favorable to sustainable mental health services in locations such as Bukavu. Finally, it may impact social change through the advancement of mental health services and psychological well-being of the Bukavu community.