n Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery - Challenges encountered by mental health workers in Kigali, Rwanda

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-5055


Being a mental health worker in Rwanda is very difficult as many endure traumatic stress as a result of working with trauma survivors and other psychiatric patients. This phenomenon has been described as Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS).

This study aimed to explore the mental health workers' experiences of STS when working with mental health clients in Kigali, Rwanda. Using a qualitative approach with an exploratory design, mental health workers from four mental health services in Kigali City were invited to participate in the study. A total of 30 participants were interviewed and included nurse managers, medical doctors, social workers, trauma counsellors, psychologists and psychiatric nurses.
Four categories emerged from the data, namely; feelings while experiencing STS; factors contributing to STS; strategies used to cope with STS; and support systems which limit STS. Mental health workers in Rwanda could experience immediate and long-term STS responses which might affect them emotionally and physically. Although there are a few positive aspects to working with traumatised clients in Rwanda, the effects of STS impact negatively on the professional functioning and interpersonal relationships of mental health workers in that country.
Mental health institutions should consider implementing protective strategies such as structured supervision and peer support groups to mitigate STS. Mental health professionals working with traumatised clients need to tend to their own self-care by examining within themselves any unresolved trauma issues of their own.

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