Module 11: Security and Stress

“I needed to mourn the people I lost and all the suffering children. It is incredible, the way it suddenly hits you after the real threat is over.” – A former UNICEF Programme Coordinator in Burundi

“We need to create support systems that will be in place before, during and after deployment of staff; and that will be fully sensitive not only to the physical security of those at risk, but also their mental and emotional health. Exhausted, stressed and inadequately supported staff cannot do their jobs effectively. They may want, and try, to tough it out, but in the final analysis, everybody is damaged.” – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

objectives imageStress and security are closely interrelated. A tense security situation will raise the general level of stress, and serious security incidents can cause serious traumatic stress disorders. Stressed-out people in insecure situations will raise the level of risk to themselves and others. High levels of stress impact on the quality and accuracy of judgment, causing staff members (and managers) to miscalculate the risks involved in dangerous situations.

This module outlines practical steps that field staff and managers can take to reduce stress-related security risks. You will learn:

  • The relationship between security and stress.
  • The basic “need to know” information about stress.
  • Some individual adapting and coping techniques.
  • Advice for managing staff stress in insecure field offices.
  • Advice for responding to critical stress incidents.