Ask an Expert: Kimberly Werner on compassion fatigue and intimate partner violence in the wake of coronavirus


COVID-19 has impacted not only the physical health of those suffering from it but also the mental health of people across the world.

But the disease’s reach doesn’t end there.

There are a multitude of secondary effects, but two pernicious examples include compassion fatigue, especially in first responders, and intimate partner violence, domestic violence between those in a relationship. Compassion fatigue, which is also known as secondary trauma or vicarious trauma, occurs when an individual reacts to others who have suffered a traumatic event. It’s most common in first responders such as health care workers or police, fire or EMS personnel.

Kimberly Werner is an assistant research professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and the incoming associate dean of research in the College of Nursing at the University of Missouri­­–St. Louis. Her background is in biopsychosocial outcomes associated with trauma exposure, and her research interests encompass trauma and stress exposure, substance involvement and use disorders, health disparities and prevention and intervention.

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