Release: Self-Care for Trauma Workers

RELEASE: SELF CARE FOR TRAUMA WORKERS tells the story of three mental health workers (David, Laurene, Jackie) that choose to incorporate the arts and meditation as alternative methods in helping youth facing any forms of trauma. They listen first-hand to the traumatic experiences of their clients and as a result the workers are exposed to vicarious trauma. This film showcases their experiences with vicarious trauma while highlighting the variety of methods they put into practice in order to release any stress, allowing them to continue working passionately and effectively with their clients. 


The purpose of this film is to give the viewer an inside look into the lives of mental health workers and the effects of vicarious trauma, while also giving insight into the individual methods of self-healing that allow them to continue working in a healthy environment. The film introduces how trauma affects not only the individual client but the staff, organization, and community from which they are receiving support. In doing so, the film aims to cultivate protective factors in every level - individual, interpersonal, organizational, and within community.

RELEASE seeks to provide staff and administrators who work with traumatized populations an interactive tool to start the conversation to discover appropriate ways to address trauma, stress, and burnout.



Discussion Guide*

This discussion guide aims to deepen understanding of the stresses associated with trauma work and explore resources that support continuing this type of work.


  • Sources of support and strength for trauma workers
  • Nature of this work and types of stresses it creates
  • Ideas for how to deal with this stress

    Discussion Questions

    • What stood out to you in the film and why?
    • What types of stresses do the people in this movie experience?
    • What effect does this stress have on them?
    • What kind of work do they do?
    • What support them in their work and keeps them doing it, despite its difficulties?
    • What stresses do you experience in your work?
    • How do you support yourself in dealing with these stresses?


    Partner Organization

    The Beat Within

    Founded in 1996 by David Inocencio and Pacific News Service, The Beat Within was created to offer writing workshops to the detained youth in San Francisco. It started off as a 6 page magazine that was published every week, but now, it is printed bi-weekly with over 80 pages of writing publications and illustrations by the youth.The main goal of the organization is to reach out to the youth in juvenile systems to help voice out their stories to the world. The organization serves over 5000 youth annually and holds over 120 workshops all over the United States, Hawaii, and even some parts of Europe.

    275 Ninth Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Phone: 415-503-4170



      • The staff turnover in child welfare is estimated to be 30-40% annually nationwide; the average length of employment is less than 2 years. The U.S. General Accounting Office. (2003). Child welfare: HHS could play a greater role in helping child welfare agencies recruit and retain staff.
      • Work-related stress has profound effects on social worker's physical and emotional health. A National Association of Social Workers (NASW) survey found 65% of social workers in child welfare/family fields reported feeling fatigue. 37% reported psychological problems.
        Social Service Workers: A Portrait. (2010). Department for Professional Employees Research Department.
      • According to a literature review of stress and burnout in social work, supervision and team support are identified as protective factors.
        Chris Lloyd, Robert King and Lesley Chenoweth, "Social work, stress and burnout: A review." Journal of Mental Health, 11(3), 255-265, 2002
      • For social workers of all races/ethnicities in a recent NASW study, exercise is the leading method for alleviating stress, followed by meditation and therapy. Participants also reported using other coping strategies, such as gardening, listening to music, watching television, massage, camping, fishing, painting, pilates, yoga, reading, spiritual development, and martial arts, to help alleviate stress.
        Arrington, P. (2008). Stress at work: How do social workers cope?. NASW Membership. Workforce Study. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
      • In chronically stressed organizations, individual staff members "feel helpless in the face of the enormity of the problems confronting them, their own individual problems, and the pressures for better performance from management. As they become increasingly stressed, the measures they take to ‘treat' the clients may backfire and they become hopeless about the capacity of either the clients or the organization to change."
      • Complex interactions that Bloom (2010) refers to as "parallel processes" (including vicarious or secondary trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue) often occur between traumatized clients, stressed staff, frustrated administrators and pressured organizations that result in service delivery that often recapitulates the very experiences that have proven to be so toxic for the people staff intend to treat.
      • The Sanctuary Model, an approach designed to reverse stress-related trends at an organizational level, expands the idea of "trauma-informed" care to include the individual staff members of our systems of care as well as each organization and the system-as-a-whole.
        Bloom, S. L. (2010). Organizational Stress as a Barrier to Trauma-Informed Service. Delivery. Becker, M. and Levin, B. A Public Health Perspective of Women's Mental Health, New York: Springer (pp.295-311)
      • "Symptoms of burnout include apathy, feelings of hopelessness, rapid exhaustion, disillusionment, melancholy, forgetfulness, irritability, experiencing work as a heavy burden, an alienated, impersonal, uncaring and cynical attitude toward clients, a tendency to blame oneself coupled with a feeling of failure" (p. 1).
        Pross, Christian. Burnout, vicarious traumatization and its prevention. Torture 16(1), pp. 1-9, 2006.



      The National Child Traumatic Stress Network's "Secondary Traumatic Stress
      A Fact Sheet for Child-Serving Professionals"

      "Transforming Compassion Fatigue into Compassion Satisfaction: Top 12 Self-Care Tips for Helpers"

      The Trauma Stewardship Institute

      The Sanctuary Model

      Professional Quality of Life Elements Theory and Measurement (ProQOL)


      Meet the filmmakers


        SHANE EVANGELISTA. Growing up in the central hub of Orange County, California: Santa Ana- surrounded by beach cities bathing in southern California sunshine, you would expect someone's creative mind to flourish. Not mine, unfortunately... When I moved to the Bay Area, it seemed as though I had hopped off the L-train carrying this giant pot of mixed paints and San Francisco, a relentless Muni patron, who had been waiting firm and furiously, shoves me in a desperate bid to get the best seat on the train; in the process, spilling the creative juices for all the world to see. In such a compact city full of diverse cultures and ideologies, my mind has become as porous and absorbent as when I was a little boy, wide-eyed and brimming with wonder. Needless to say, San Francisco has provided inexhaustible inspiration to my filmmaking career. I have always had a deep appreciation for film as an outlet for creative self-expression. Documentaries hold my interest especially because of their capacity for social, as well as visceral impacts. The production of Release: Self-Care for Trauma Workers has bolstered that sentiment and I have since honed in on making films that concern social justice issues. In 2013, a colleague and I released a documentary chronicling the lives of displaced Latina/o families affected by gentrification in San Francisco's Mission district. I am also the chief editor at Marvelous Real production company. (



        ZANDER MACKIE. Zander is an alumnus of Wesleyan University and graduated in 2013 with a Masters in Philosophy from San Francisco State. A filmmaker, editor, and musician, Zander was an obnoxiously quizzical child and is now an obsessively curious adult. He's studied Tibetan ritual music in the Himalayas, worked on a documentary project photographing veterans, interviewed bikers and anarchists for news radio, collects recordings of lightning, and worked as a cook at the Zen Hospice Project. In 2012 he finished an experimental film, "Califia Cycle", which explores the ramifications of psychedelic drugs and the internet on Bay Area culture. In that same year he initiated pre-production on a film about assisted suicide in the Netherlands. He works as a freelance editor, sound designer, and boom operator.


        RAGINI K. MOMI. Born in Bangkok, Thailand, I grew up in a family of musicians where both of my parents have been heavily involved in the arts. As a child, my parents made sure I got my training in Indian classical music (vocal, sitar, tabla, etc.) and Gurmat Sangeet which is part of the Sikh tradition. I grew up in an environment where creativity was encouraged and nurtured, and this drew me towards the visual arts of film and photography. I danced and sang on stage, and had performed on many stages. I moved to California at the age of 12, and found another world to live in. This coincided with the unfortunate events of 9/11 through which my family was a target of discrimination and misidentification. However, this pushed me to become more aware of my roots and heritage. I became involved in the community and participated in events that was geared towards human rights. This made me realize that film can be an advocate for a rightful cause and a voice for those who are still fighting for their rights; this fueled and confirmed my passion for film.


        ISRAEL RAMOS. As a youth growing up in a rough neighborhood in San Francisco, it was always hard for me to connect with most of the kids in my community because gangs had such a major influence on us all. However, art has always been my scapegoat and my release from peer pressure, allowing me to be myself without any fear. I truly saw art as the only viable option accessible to me as an escape from the violence that sucked in so many of my peers. I was accepted into an arts High School, School Of The Arts (SOTA), and was introduced to so many forms of self expression and a community willing to accept my talents with an open-mind. I was intrigued by film and dedicated much of my free time indulging in the craft, which ultimately led me to enroll for a Bachelor's Degree in Cinema production at San Francisco State University. Working on "Release: Self Care for Trauma Workers" really intrigued me because it was something so familiar of my past and of my present. 


        SARAH ROSENBERG. I've always been drawn to art, music, and other expressive outlets, particularly the therapeutic potential within them. I'm an artist, writer, violinist, and cellist, and these outlets have each carried me through challenges at different points in my life. Yet, in the ongoing journey of my own self-discovery I haven't yet felt ready to place more than one foot at a time in the arts. After earning my bachelor's degree in International Studies and Spanish from Towson University, I responded to a job posting that required, among other things, "a passion for working with youth," and that's how I started working on the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth project at JBS International, and discovered public health. Growing up in a diverse suburb in Maryland, I was raised to have compassion and empathy for others, especially when there is a lack of social justice in their life experiences, and I wanted to do something about that. That's when I discovered San Francisco State's Master of Public Health in Community Health Education program, and decided to move to the Bay Area. In addition to its focus on community empowerment, what intrigued me about the program was the creativity evident in past graduates' culminating experience (thesis) projects-including some that incorporated original documentary films. "Release: Self Care for Trauma Workers" is now part of my own culminating experience, not only for my master's, but also in my life, since it has inspired me to reawaken my focus on the arts and even connect it to public health and social justice goals.


        *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute