While working in disaster zones, personnel are exposed to stress factors such as high intensity, unpredictability and exposure to traumatic events. It is therefore important to reduce other possible sources of stress, as well as reinforcing protective and motivating elements.

Protective factors:

  • Recognition from leadership
  • Preparation and training
  • Efficient logistics, security and access to equipment
  • Facilitating connection with family and social network
  • Time and ability for rest, relaxation and exercise
  • Mentor programmes where experienced colleagues mentor and support newcomers
  • Good internal cooperation between organisations and with local authorities
  • Integrated plan for support and follow-up during deployment, such as peer- and family support
  • A work culture that encourages openness, where colleagues can safely share reactions, concerns and ethical dilemmas without facing silence or judgement

Risk factors:

  • Lack of team spirit
  • Unpredictable work hours
  • Social conflict and insecurity
  • Vague instructions, roles and boundaries
  • Weak, inaccessible or evasive leadership
  • Absent safety routines, equipment and training
  • Unclear communication and insufficient information
  • High workload and high work intensity without chance to rest
  • Frequent deployments without opportunity to “settle” between each mission
  • Lack of accordance between expectations and reality can be stressful, especially if it involves having to do ethical compromises