I have only just started interviewing participants for my research and am mainly dealing with elderly people. The trouble is they are really getting me down! All the people I have spoken too are so negative - they keep on telling me how terrible it is to get old and how down they feel...I am finding it very hard to empathise and not get sucked into a big vortex of despair. I am also getting requests for practical help which I don't really have time to do - I have my own family to look after but it is really difficult to say no! Has anyone else had this problem? I have been depressed in the past and am really worried that doing this fieldwork is not going to be good for me emotionally - esp as I am not at the university at the moment so don't really have anyone I can unwind/debrief with. :-( Has anyone else had problems like this? How do you manage not to empathise too much? I wish I had chosen a different topic to be honest!
I hear a lot of awful tales in my interviews and have had people break down in the room with me - which I hate cos I have never been a very touchy feely person and tend to tense up and sit awkwardly to wait until they have stopped crying. Best thing to do with people seeking practical help is to have a list of helplines/support groups for them and encourage them to go to these people e.g. help the aged, age concern, even meals on wheels!
Most importantly remember that these people have probably agreed to take part because they like a whinge - I know this may be troublesome for your research, but the sample is probably skewed, as mine is towards people who want to moan a bit, there is nothing you can do about this. But just remember that you are probably hearing the rubbish side of things. I know a lot of elderly people who are loving it so don't be brought down.
Maybe it is also bringing you down because you feel a little helpless about their situation, maybe providing them with the helplines/support groups will make you feel you are helping to address their situation. Maybe your research can be fed back to the council or other relative parties, to raise awareness as well.
======= Date Modified 15 Sep 2008 11:30:56 =======
Sorry double post!
Did you get ethical approval for this? I'm really suprised they haven't made sure you have a debrief with a trained psychologist. You must sort this out ASAP. University counselling services are a good place to start and should be free. Many services now do remote counselling so you don't always have to be in University to benefit.
And you really shouldn't be helping with practical issus. I agree with sneaks. Have a list of contacts ready for them. When you're getting consent explain to them that you are not in a position to help them personally but you are more than happy to refer them to services which can help.
You have to make sure you take care of yourself.
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