Compassion Awareness Project

The scientific and medical knowledge developed through animal research has saved countless lives and improved the health outcomes for both humans and animals.

Lab tech holding brown mouseHowever, the ethical cost of using animals in research may cause some individuals to experience emotional distress, especially if strong bonds are formed between themselves and the research animals, or if they perform euthanasia as part of their occupational/research duties.

It is important to acknowledge that these feelings and emotions, commonly referred to as “compassion fatigue,” are not only legitimate and appropriate responses to the work you do with animals, but, when expressed through the proper channels, can actually be used to enhance and support the research environment you create for both your colleagues and the animals under your care.

The Compassion Awareness Project (CAP) is a Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) led initiative to address the issue of compassion fatigue, including the subsequent mental and physical health issues, and job-related concerns it can cause.

CAP uses a multifaceted approach to engage and educate all departmental staff, with the goal of reducing compassion fatigue and improving compassion satisfaction.

Everyone in the animal research community is welcome to participate in CAP events.

Events typically follow a variety of formats:

  • Seminars featuring self-care strategies to improve resilience,
  • Lunch & Learns connecting staff to the life-changing research being done at U-M,
  • Enrichment crafting where enrichment is made for a variety of species,
  • And much more!

If you are struggling with compassion fatigue, there are resources that can help:


The U-M also provides mental wellness programs and counseling services, FREE OF CHARGE, to all faculty, staff, and students:

Compassion Fatigue FAQs

Increase or decrease in sleep, decreased cognitive ability, impaired behavior and judgment, loss of morale, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), less self-worth, difficulty controlling emotions, loss of hope and meaning, and/or anger.

High staff turnover, absenteeism, decreased morale, poor attitude, reduced job performance, and/or an uncaring or callous attitude toward animals.

It's important to remember that the journey of self-care is a very personal one, and what works for someone else may not work for you. After conducting a substantial amount of research, we have found the following resources to be especially helpful:

Websites

Podcasts

Apps

Books

  • To Save a Starfish: A Compassion Fatigue Workbook for the Animal Welfare Warrior. Jennifer Blough, LLPC 
  • The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive. Dr. Kristen Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer
  • Radical Acceptance. Dr. Tara Branch
  • The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. Gretchen Rubin
  • The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative. Florence Williams
  • The Self-Care Project. Jayne Hardy

 

Please consider reaching out to us if you would like more information about the Compassion Awareness Project, or if you think you may be struggling with compassion fatigue; we are here to help.

Questions?

Contact us at CompassionFatigue@umich.edu for additional information regarding strategies to prevent and mitigate compassion fatigue, or if you are interested in having us come and talk to your research group.