Frontline Worker Grief and Trauma - FPYN's F-SOS report

FPYN completed this report in the fall of 2009.  We are grateful and inspired by the courageous frontline workers who shared their stories with us and who are working day and night supporting youth, families and communities.  Please honour their stories and truths by talking about this report, passing it to others and advocating for action. Together we continue to change the sector from the inside out and from the outside in.
Most sincerely,


Jenny Katz

Frontline Partners with Youth Network (FPYN)

Toronto, ON


 FPYN's "Frontline Systems of Support” (F-SOS) Report


  • Literature review
  • Environmental Scan with 9 Key Stakeholders
  • 7 Focus Groups across Toronto, with a total of 45 participants


  • Grief and trauma impact physical health- 100% of respondents said they suffer negative health impacts.
  • Grief and trauma causes mental suffering- 96% of respondents stated they suffer mental health distress.
  • What we deal with all day (and some nights) has an effect on our personal relationships- 80% of youth workers reported problems in their relationships.
  • There is very little we know of to help us- 29% of participants stated they were not aware of any supports, or that there were none available to frontline workers in their organizations.
  • We know that the systems we work within are part of the problem- 92% identified changes to organizational practices, with time off and managers/supervisors who understand and want to help them were the most common “asks.”  46% wanted to see a plan that would change what happens in their organizations.
  • We also know what we need- 58% of youth workers wanted counselling, of which 71% wanted individual counselling and 29% group sessions. 54% of workers wanted to speak with others who have had similar experiences, with 21% directly asking for peer support type models.
  • We know what stops us from getting help- Cost was a barrier for 42% of workers, 30% mentioned discrimination or stereotypes, culture (particularly helping professionals from privileged groups) the most common concern (83%).


“It has become a numbing experience. Because so many youth have passed away that I have had direct contact with, I have become desensitized to the occurrence of death.”

“Currently I am unaware of any supports that exist within my agency which is odd considering that they are a mental health agency.”

“I worked someplace before where the E.D. said that is was unprofessional for me to grieve a client/youth’s death because they were not related to me – of course I had to quit that job.”

“Many workers are suffering from PTSD/acute anxiety and vicarious trauma. They are unaware that there need for destructive behaviour ie, binge drinking, partying all night with no sleep, and work without clear boundaries is all a symptom of trauma. This is becoming such an issue that workaholics are the champions of our work.”


F-SOS was a Community Mobilization Award Initiative funded through the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO.  Please see the full report attached.