University of Otago student Susan Wardell wears East African clothing in her Dunedin boutique yesterday as she gets set to research what causes youth workers to burn out in New Zealand and in Uganda. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Devoted youth workers are burning out, so a Dunedin student
is flying to East Africa to research if the mental fatigue
only manifests itself in the Western World.
University of Otago student Susan Wardell (23), from Dunedin,
said her three-year study would compare what causes youth
workers to burn out in New Zealand and in Uganda.
She was travelling to Christchurch next week to study 15
youth workers there and had a flight booked to Uganda to
study 15 other youth workers next month.
She had worked with youth at Roslyn Baptist Church before, so
was "at home" observing youth workers in New Zealand but she
expected staff in the city of Kampala, Uganda, to be
dramatically different, she said.
The social anthropology and communications PhD student would
spend 10 weeks in the East African country with her husband
and the research project would focus and what part
spirituality played in people suffering from compassion
fatigue, Mrs Wardell said.
Compassion fatigue was when the worker took on the same
symptoms as the youth, she said.
Faith-based youth workers often focused on the care of others
and forgot to care for themselves, she said.
"By loving self-sacrificially."
Youth work was a "notoriously" short-term field and staff
needed to look after themselves to ensure career longevity,
The staff at Canterbury Youth Services in Christchurch, where
she would work next week, apparently burnt out less than the
average youth worker in New Zealand so she would research the
factors creating greater career length, she said.
Burnout was a Western phenomenon and a diagnosis in New
Zealand, she said.
"It's a legitimate sick day, it's all official now."
Exhausted workers cost the Government money so it wanted to
know how to prevent burnout, she said.
Between her study and running her ethical boutique, the
Cuckoo's Nest, in George St, for almost a year she was not
near burnout, she said.
"But I am getting less and less sleep each night."