A few months ago I wrote about working in a field that involves historical trauma and the need for self care. The topic of self care and the mental toll of working on emotionally charged topics came to the forefront for me earlier this week. I spent a few hours digitizing records and cross referencing the information in these records with our research files. This isn’t an unusual activity for me.
However the set of records I was digitizing were burial permits relating to residential schools. Working in a small archives or conducting historical research can be a very isolating and solo experience. There aren’t always built in support networks for mental health. Maybe there should be. Particularly for those working with topics that deal with historical trauma.
In this instance when I finished this task I took a walk and spent the rest of the day engaged in positive work — planning for a gathering of former residential school students and working on education pieces relating to residential schools. But it’s very easy to get bogged down by work that deals with such an emotionally charged topic. I love the work I’ve been able to do and I am constantly inspired by the resilience of the residential survivors I work with. But there are occasionally difficult days that require reflection and support.
I’d be interested to hear about what self care techniques or mental health support other researchers and historians practice.