Witnessing Trauma. Vicarious Trauma in Interpreters

Witnessing Trauma. Vicarious Trauma in Interpreters
Interpreters bridge language gaps, but their unseen burden is often mental. Vicarious trauma lurks as they absorb others' traumas. Awareness, training, and self-care are crucial to ensure interpreters' well-being.
Video Duration: 
Chiara Rao
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Interpreters are bridges between different languages and cultures.
They meet a lot of people and help them communicate in a lot of different situations. The job of an interpreter can be very rewarding, but it has its challenges too. 

Hi! I’m Chiara, a researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. I research the topic of mental health in interpreters.
Imagine working in a foreign country, or ending up in a hospital while you are abroad. If you are unable to speak the language, depending on the situation you’re in, you might need an interpreter.

Interpreters are bridges between you and the other person, and they will help you communicate clearly and get your message across. 
Being an interpreter isn’t always easy, though. Interpreters often hear traumatic stories or work with people who have experienced traumatic events.

By ‘respeaking’ what the other person has said, interpreters might become traumatized by events that they haven’t lived first-hand. It’s like they absorb the pain secondhand.
This phenomenon is called vicarious trauma, and it resembles PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Police, firefighters, paramedics, social workers… they can all experience it too.
Interpreters are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon. They repeat what others say, taking in their emotions. The problem? 
While other professionals like police or firefighters are warned about this danger, many interpreters don’t realize this can affect them too.

But there’s hope. By focusing on prevention, taking care of their physical and mental well-being, and receiving training on this issue, interpreters can build resilience and cope with this problem.
So, if you’re an interpreter or know someone who is, take care. Spread the word about vicarious trauma. Let’s keep our interpreters safe.



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