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Why Didn't You Say Anything? Why We Don’t Speak Up When Caring Professionals Struggle

Over the course of the last year, I watched as a friend of mine poured an immense amount of time and effort into helping organizations and people outside her already busy business, leading selflessly with her time and energy. With each passing day, I noticed as she drifted from her passion, and enthusiasm for her work, while giving others the spark they needed to thrive.

On a call this week she shared a conversation with me that she’d had with her assistant. She told me that she’d told her that she realized that she’d been struggling with burnout. She was a bit put off, because her assistant responded to her admission saying only, “Oh, I could see you were burnt out.” My friend was wondering aloud to me, “If she knew, why didn’t she tell me?”

Hearing this, an unsettling thought crept into my mind: I too had watched her tread dangerously close to burnout.
I had watched it, listened to it, and seen it. But I didn’t say anything either, and it got me thinking.

There's a prevalent misconception that individuals engaged in health promotion, mental health, or any caregiving capacity possess an intrinsic ability to self-diagnose burnout. Based on personal experiences, it's evident that while we can easily uplift others, recognize their potential, and leverage our expertise to discern their needs, we seldom apply this same lens of scrutiny to ourselves.

Those around us, in our same field often assume that we've got everything under control. They believe that our extensive knowledge, resources, and experiences make us invulnerable to such struggles. And yet, statistics reveal that professionals in caring roles, like social service, healthcare, and education, exhibit some of the highest rates of burnout.

This happens despite their profound understanding and capability to identify these signs in others.

A significant portion of my work revolves around rejuvenating our caregiving workforce. One of the key factors in predicting compassion fatigue is how we talk to ourselves , how we see ourselves, recognize our value and our ability in the face of chronic stress and overwhelm.

Caring professionals often forget that the grace, strength and empathy they give others they also deserve for themselves.

While I emphasize recognizing our inherent strengths, abilities, and resources, I also share the idea that self-care is a shared responsibility. Teams that genuinely look out for one another, understanding the subtle distinctions between a passionate, motivated member and one who’s overwhelmed and deflated, can create a resilient, supportive work environment. Voicing our observations and concerns becomes imperative.

Today I’m reminding myself to make an earnest attempt to view everyone around us not just through a professional or expert lens, but through a compassionate, human one. Let's truly see one another and take proactive steps to reach out. Many, me included, lost in their struggles, often don't see the signs themselves. The essence lies in being present, actively listening, and most crucially, in speaking up when it matters the most.

Known for her humor, hopefulness, and depth of experience as a college professor, therapeutic play specialist, author, entrepreneur and speaker, Brandi Heather brings a unique and valuable perspective to growing organizations who want to effectively restore, retain, and re-engage their caring workforce.

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