Humanitarian worker psychological health is impacted by proximity to violence. This impacts the nature of humanitarian assistance in changing political and security environments. Humanitarian workers' abilities to make sense of their work, the stress paradigms of mental health, and critiques of humanitarianism are examined. The author challenges humanitarians and organisations not to interpret the human experiences of violence through a stress paradigm, in particular that of trauma and PTSD. An argument is made for recognition of humanitarian workers as active agents. The work is informed by Antonovsky's Sense of Coherence (SOC) construct, by ecological theory and the field of humanitarian studies.The findings question whether the humanitarian system (inadvertently or otherwise) fuels and exploits worker identities that are constructed around notions of 'heroism' and 'saving others,' compounded by principles of equity, justice and concern for others. It notes a system-wide tendency to attribute to individual weakness that which may be a systemic failure to engage with implications associated with emergency approaches to complex problems. Key themes are identified and explored.
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