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Primary and Secondary Trauma of Public Servants in Literature

September 1st, 2014

How often does an author understand and depict primary and/or secondary traumatic stress of caregivers or public servants in literature or the media? Perhaps the public servants, including the cops and detectives, whom we like best are the ones whose human side are convincingly depicted. Following is a compelling quote from Henning Mankell’s novel SIDE-TRACKED (pg. 29) which depicts the inner traumatic experience of fictitious detective and policeman, Kurt Wallander, after he tries unsuccessfully to rescue a suicidal teen-ager from a horrible act of self immolation:
“Afterwards Wallander would remember the burning girl…the way you remember…a distant nightmare. If he appeared to maintain at least an outward sense of calm for the rest of the evening, later he could recall nothing but trivial details….But they (his colleagues) couldn’t see through the shield he had set up to protect himself. Inside him there was devastation, like a house that had collapsed. He got back to his flat just after 2 a.m. Only then, when he sat down on his sofa…did the shield crumble. He poured himself a glass of whisky…and he cried like a baby. The girl had been a child. She reminded him of his own daughter…During his years as a policeman he had learned to be prepared for whatever might await him…Somehow he had learned to endure what he saw and push it aside. But he couldn’t when there were children or young people involved. Then he was as vulnerable as when he was first a policeman. He knew that many of his colleagues reacted the same way…”


July 29th, 2014

Among the wide variety of professionals who provide care to traumatized persons are our firefighters. CAREgivers film which is in post production addresses the emotional and sometimes serious physical impacts upon this group in interviews with Philadelphia’s former Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and with officers and staff of the Fire Academy. A related article of interest by Erin McCarthy appears in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. You may read it at:’+hearts+safe+philadelphia+inquirer&tbm=nws


July 29th, 2014

Whether they be police, firefighters, child welfare workers, clinical social workers or psychiatrists, there are at times life threatening risks which these people and other caregiving professionals may confront. Such is the tragic story of mental health social worker, Theresa Hunt (age 53), and psychiatrist Lee Silverman (age 52) who were both shot by a mentally disturbed outpatient who arrived for his therapeutic session with a loaded gun. Ms. Hunt died immediately from the gunshot and Dr. Silverman sustained minor wounds after defending himself and other potentially threatened staff by shooting back with his own gun (and killing) the attacking patient. Such incidents, though quite rare, create a physical and emotional context of danger and threat for certain categories of caregivers and beg these questions: what measures of physical protection or security need to be in place to protect staff and reduce such risks? How can our gun oriented US culture end access of guns to people with threatening mental health backgrounds? You may read the article at:

Appreciation to Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers

June 21st, 2014

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers shared a few months ago in an filmed interview for CAREGIVERS documentary his poignant personal and professional experiences with secondary trauma. His candid comments and perspectives as a front-line firefighter and as a commissioner enrich our story. We look forward to sharing segments of this interview with you at screenings in 2015 or sooner. And Commissioner Ayers, we thank you for your service to the City! Following is a link that announces his retirement and the appointment of a new Commissioner.

Veterans Administration: The Human Side of Empathic Counseling

May 27th, 2014

Amidst current negative media headlines and defensive press conferences about the Veterans Administration, the pressures on the professional caregivers who work there are rarely, if ever, referenced. Last fall CAREgivers documentary film was able to obtain authorization to interview clinical psychologist, Peter Yeomans, who works for the VA in Philadelphia. His compelling stories of the emotional disorders of veterans that he and his clinical colleagues treat, and the impact upon himself and others who provide such empathic care will be featured in the film, along with dramatic narratives of professionals from many other areas of service. Various studies have demonstrated that counseling trauma victims may cause symptoms of stress or secondary trauma for the caregivers themselves, also known as compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma. Such reactions may occur as a result of the deep empathy expressed by such therapists for their patients/ clients.

The documentary will depict the human side of professional caregiving–and we hope will contribute to a greater balance in the representation of beleaguered agencies such as the VA in which so many skillful clinicians do indeed provide impressive services–often with psychological costs to themselves.

Hospice Foundation of America’s film: “Something More”

April 21st, 2014

The Hospice Foundation of America has recently released a one hour documentary that shares the stories of patients and their families who have elected to receive hospice care. The stories are poignant and illustrate a range of very interesting situations, while also combating various misconceptions the public may have about hospice services. The film, “Something More”, also provides insight into the challenges that family caregivers may experience and the assistance that hospice services can provide them. This fine documentary can be viewed online or one can order a free copy of the DVD at:

Screening of our new short “Rasheida’s Story” at PIFVA

March 31st, 2014

Pleased that we were able to screen “Rasheida’s story”, our recently released animated narrative which illustrates secondary trauma, at PIFVA (Phila Independent Film and Video Assoc.) on March 12 with an interesting Q an A which followed. See:

Happy to release 2 new shorts from CAREgivers film project

March 5th, 2014

“Rasheida’s Story” at is a compelling narrative by educator/social worker, Rasheida Peay, about the tragic death of a 10 year old student/client of hers, who was killed in the crossfire of urban violence, while on a class errand to pick up pastries for her other students. Rasheida shares her personal struggle with professional grief/ secondary trauma and the help she received from her next organizational setting (Wordsworth in Philadelphia).

The second short is entitled: “Caregivers of Hospice and Palliative Care: Our Job This Side of Dying.” It depicts the work of 3 professionals from Samaritan Hospice (New Jersey)-a medical social worker, a doctor, and a bereavement counselor-as they visit 3 different patients and then reflect on the impact of their poignant work upon themselves as professional caregivers. This short can be viewed on line at:

Please enjoy and share with me your responses to this work at !!

CAREgivers film – interview in NASW news article

March 5th, 2014

Happy to report that CAREGIVERS FILM is featured in the article “Compassion Fatigue a growing concern” by Paul R. Pace in NASW NEWS (January, 2014) at

An excerpt from the article states in reference to CAREgivers: “Social workers, nurses, doctors, firefighters and other caregivers share their experiences in the film. There are also stories of hope that offer those suffering with compassion fatigue the knowledge that progressive organizations are working to make a difference…”

Columbia University Professor Tim Wu Responds to NY Times’ “Too Many Movies”

January 24th, 2014

We believe that Caregivers film has the potential to help the public and other dedicated professionals appreciate the human side of professional caregiving, including the rewards AND the significant personal risks or toll that often occur. We hope you’ll help us to spread the word about CAREgivers film to your friends and colleagues. We will be releasing the completed film later this year. Some shorts will also be posted soon.

Hope you’ll also enjoy reading the following article which enters the debate about the proliferation of many independent films: