Research and resources focused on advocate and worker wellbeing

Mon 01 Nov 2021

Recent research has looked at what is needed to support advocate and staff wellbeing, especially during COVID. We have also highlighted some resources for individuals, managers and workplaces.

Service providers and researchers from Australia researched the impact of the pandemic on family violence advocate and worker wellbeing in the context of COVID-19 and identified key strategies to support staff. Based on this research, they developed best practice guidelines to support workplaces and supervisors to safeguard the wellbeing of practitioners working in remote settings, including working from home.

The Best Practice Guidelines: Supporting the Wellbeing of Family Violence Workers During Times of Emergency and Crisis are based on 4 key responses:

  • Key Response 1: Set up remote workspaces in practitioners’ homes
  • Key Response 2: Monitor and manage worker wellbeing
  • Key Response 3: Communicate
  • Key Response 4: Build a resilient family violence workforce.

For each area, the guide outlines specific actions for workplaces to take before, during and after crisis response to support workers and staff. Under key response area 2, focused on monitoring and managing worker wellbeing, the guidelines note:

"During times of crisis, it is crucial that organisations actively ‘check in’ with their workers. There are a number of strategies that organisations can utilise to support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff during periods of emergency including:

  • Providing regular supervision dedicated to addressing the worker and their mental health and wellbeing
  • Facilitating peer support and maintaining social connections among staff
  • Encouraging breaks from work through access to leave."

The webinar, Responding to the Shadow Pandemic: Family Violence workforce wellbeing during COVID-19, explores the best practice guidelines. The guidelines are based on the research report When home becomes the workplace: family violence, practitioner wellbeing and remote service delivery during COVID-19 restrictions. This research is from the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre in Australia as part of their wider research project on Gender-based violence and help-seeking behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Resources for individuals, managers and workplaces 

Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) and ComVoices partnered with Umbrella Wellbeing to host a webinar on Strengthening Wellbeing in Times of Uncertainty with Zeenah Adam from Umbrella Wellbeing. SSPA has put together a summary of the webinar for kaimahi (workers and staff) across the non-government, Iwi social services and community sector in Aotearoa. 

Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga recorded a number of COVID-19 Tautoko videos in 2020 to provide tautoko (support) to advisors, decision-makers, iwi, communities and whānau. The videos feature perspectives from Kaumātua and insights on noho ki te kainga (staying home).

Tuihana Ohia from the Centre for Social Impact developed Unu Ora - a series of brief meditations on health and wellbeing with a Te Ao Māori perspective. There are 5 Unu Ora in the series. Each Unu Ora offers a whakatauki to encourage reflection, and some questions and ideas to think about your wellbeing. 

Kāhui Oranga, a collaborative health sector group, has a 6-part webinar series Leading for Wellbeing. The webinars include wellbeing through the eyes of Dame R. Naida Glavish, compassionate leadership and Ma pango, ma whero, ka oti te mahi! Our diversity is a strength, we require to succeed! featuring Rachel Prebble, Tofa Suafole-Gush and Chris King exploring their role as leaders in supporting diverse workforces.

Re: News featured a series of articles and videos on practical mindfulness tools with Te Ao Māori view using honest kōrero, humour and shared stories.

The Pasifika Medical Association, Pasifika Futures and Pacific Media Network collaborated to offer a brief weekly radio segment looking at conversations about mental health and wellbeing, called Ngalu Fānifo. 

Whāraurau offers the free online course Self-care in Trauma-informed care organisations. While not specific to COVID-19 impacts, the course explains how trauma can affect people who support, protect and serve vulnerable children/tamariki and families and whānau. It offers practical steps to manage the impact of trauma and improve wellbeing.

The US-based National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) has produced three resources pulling together resources to support advocate and worker wellbeing, and community care and resilience:

TA Bundle: Community Care & Resilience (July 2021)

#Care4Advocates: COVID-19 Resources to Support Advocates’ Well-being (March 2020)

TA Bundle: Smiles for the Soul: The Advocate’s Scrapbook of Strength, Wisdom & Wellness (December 2019)

Update: The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) has published We Care Evidence Review: Exploring research into how wellness and care can be institutionalised in the violence against women field in low- and middle-income countries (2021). It includes recommendations for institutional-level care and wellbeing strategies and advice specific to supporting workers during the covid-19 pandemic.

Update: The Growing Together: A Guide to Collective Care…and why self-care isn’t enough (October 2021) published by the New Naratif, is comic that highlights the difference between self care and community care, and shares an example for creating community care in an organisation.

Update: InsideOUT Kōaro and researchers from the University of Otago documented the development of a culture of care to support the wellbeing of Rainbow activists involved with InsideOUT Kōaro in the article Creating a culture of care to support rainbow activists’ well-being: an exemplar from Aotearoa | New Zealand (May 2022).

Update: USAID published How to Embed Self- and Collective Care in Organizations Addressing Gender-Based Violence (April 2022) which providers an overview and outlines principles to guide organisational actions to embed self-care and collective care.

Update: Safe and Equal, based in Australia, has created resources to support wellbeing for people who work in primary prevention of family violence. The 'How We Thrive' Video Series (2023) includes 4 brief videos and tip sheets. These resources are designed to help managers and organisational leaders understand what prevention practitioners need to feel supported and valued in their organisations, as well as helping prevention practitioners to advocate for their own projects and wellbeing.

General resources to support wellbeing for individuals and workplaces during COVID-19

All Right? has information for individuals, families and whānau in their campaign on Getting Through Together. They also have information on workplace wellbeing.

The Mental Health Foundation has information about wellbeing, parenting during COVID-19, grief and loss, suicide prevention, what to do if you’re having a hard time getting through and more helpful resources. For organisations see their resources for Workplace wellbeing during Covid-19.

Te Rau Ora and The Centre for Māori Suicide Prevention developed the Manaaki Ora app - a self-help wellbeing app to support individuals and whānau to know what to do if they’re concerned with someone’s mental or emotional wellbeing.

The Ministry of Health has an extensive list of tools and where to get help to support your own wellbeing and others during the covid-19 pandemic.

Background on systemic impacts to advocate and worker wellbeing

International research indicates that workers in family violence and sexual violence are continuing to experience sustained significant increased service demands and increased stresses. For more information see our COVID FAQ part 2: Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 under the heading What needs to be done in Aotearoa New Zealand? Also see international research listed under Further Reading on our Information for specialist family violence and sexual violence services webpage.

Tainui Stephens wrote about Kaupapa Fatigue as "...the toll extracted from people who were so dedicated to making the Māori world better." He writes:

"It’s in the nature of oppressed peoples to fight back. There are necessary roles for the strategist, the warrior, the diplomat, and many other types of advocates and workers. But being forever active in the frontline of Māori revival and growth comes with a price. 

I’ve known many individuals who grew old before their time because of the energy they expended, and the risks they took with their health or their domestic happiness, all to be able to serve a vital kaupapa that uplifted the wellbeing of the people. 

The fatigue from their efforts is chronic when it becomes continuous. To serve the entity we call “the people” requires more hours than exist in a day. No wonder Māui tried to slow down the sun."

In a research article Fiona Cram explores mahi aroha in times of crisis and the capacity of Māori to continue to offer mahi aroha noting:

"In times of crisis and adversity, Māori have stepped up to undertake paid and unpaid work within their communities. For many, this work is done out of a love for the people and a desire to see those who are most vulnerable in their community supported through times of difficulty and loss. Mahi aroha is underpinned by Māori values that also inform responsive adaptations to kawa and tikanga alongside the repurposing of workforces, resources and networks. Social media is widely used to support collective resiliency and inspire hope. Part of securing Māori capacity for mahi aroha into the future is the provision of homes for whānau that enable them to give effect to their love for people and their willingness to reach out and support others."

For more information see Sacha McMeeking, Helen Leahy and Catherine Savage's article An Indigenous self-determination social movement response to COVID-19 (2020).

The webinar, Is It Burn Out or Moral Injury, from the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center (US-based), explores how colonisation, historical trauma and racism contribute to systems and infrastructure which create moral injury for advocates and workers. For more information see moral injury resources for social work and community advocates from the The Shay Moral Injury Center at the US-based Volunteers of America.

Update: See this article Self-care for gender-based violence researchers – Beyond bubble baths and chocolate pralines (April 2022) for a discussion and review of self-care for GBV researchers, structural limitations and impacts on GBV researcher wellbeing, and recommendations focused on relational and collaborative ways of taking care of ourselves and each other.

Update: The article Self-Care: What’s Power Got to do With It? (May 2022) from the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) blog explores structural and systemic factors including workplace norms, societal norms and power dynamics within organisations that influence self-care, highlighting that self-care does not look the same for everyone. Also see the related SVRI webinar Decolonising Wellness and Self-Care (May 2022).

Related media

The Waikato kaimahi kapa haka competition is connecting to a tool for healing, NZ Herald, 27.10.2023

Mental Health Wellness in GBV Prevention and Response: From the Individual to the Systems Level, Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) news, 10.12.2021

From Me to We: reclaiming the need for collective care, Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Blog, 13.12.2021

Coping with ambiguity now Covid’s here to stay, Newsroom, 12.10.2021

Sometimes just a chat is enough, E-Tangata, 03.10.2021

Whaiora project - psychotherapy and Māori healing working together, Te Ao Māori News, 24.08.2021

NZ should learn from Māori resilience - Meng Foon, Te Ao Māori News, 09.08.2020

Caring for community to beat coronavirus echoes Indigenous ideas of a good life, The Conversation, 24.04.2020

This Viral Facebook Post Urges People to Rethink Self-Care, By Nakita Valerio, Fashion Magazine, 16.04.2019

Activism and the Future: Beyond the Term “Burnout” and Deepening our Ability to Care for Ourselves and Each Other for the Long Haul, Social Work Futures blog by Laura Burney Nissen [USA], March 2019

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