ENSURE THE WELLBEING OF YOUR STAFF AND REDUCE THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF A CRITICAL INCIDENT THROUGH WORKPLACE POST-TRAUMA SUPPORT

Post-Trauma Support

What is post-trauma support?

Post-trama support, otherwise known as Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), is a short term process that focusses only on an immediate and identifiable problem. It allows people to talk about a critical incident without judgement and is aimed at: addressing the trauma; helping your staff return to their ‘normal’ daily routine more quickly, and reducing the likelihood of PTSD.

What defines a critical or traumatic incident?

A critical or traumatic incident is an event that causes a powerful emotional reaction. These incidents can raise stress levels dramatically in a very short period of time. 

Post-trauma support (or CISM) can help the individual to establish a new ‘normal’ stress level. Everyone is unique and so ‘normal’ will mean different things to different people, but the purpose of post-trauma support is to set their new ‘normal’ stress levels as low as possible. 

Critical, or traumatic, incidents might include:

  • Death in the ‘line of duty’
  • Suicide
  • Serious work-related injuries
  • Multi-casualty disasters
  • Terrorist incidents
  • Significant events involving children
  • Events with excessive media coverage/interest
  • Prolonged events with negative outcomes
  • Large-scale redundancies
  • Any significantly powerful, overwhelming and/or distressing event relating to work

Why is Post-Trauma support important? 

Responding promptly when an incident occurs is vital in achieving a rapid return to normal business functioning with minimal effect on staff wellbeing and productivity. Critical or traumatic incidents can cost your company through psychological distress and staff absence. Without intervention, staff may use humour as a defence mechanism in order to ‘deal with it’, turn to alcohol or drug abuse to ‘self-medicate’. 

Even the most astute employer might not notice the signs of trauma so it’s essential to act fast to protect you and your staff from its effects. 

A quick response can make all the difference.

How does post-trauma support work? 

The type of intervention employed will depend on the situation, the number of people involved, and their proximity to the critical incident. The goal of this process is to address the trauma along the general progression of:

Defusing

Defusing is carried out on the day of the incident and before the person has had a chance to sleep. It’s designed to assure them that their feelings are normal, tell them what symptoms to look out for in the short term, and let them know that they have someone they can talk to.

Symptoms of trauma might include: 

  • Shock and/or Denial
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Guilt 
  • Fear
  • Hypervigilance and/or Paranoia 
  • Phobia
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Nightmares or other Sleep Disturbances
  • Sweating and Heart Palpitations
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea

Debriefing (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing or CISD)

Normally carried out within 72 hours of the incident, the debriefing is usually the second level of intervention for those directly affected (and often the first for those not directly involved).

Debriefing gives people the opportunity to talk about their experience and how it has affected them, brainstorm coping mechanisms and identify at-risk individuals. 

This process has a total of 7 steps, from assessing the impact of the incident on employees through to assisting in re-entry to the workplace. 

Follow-Up

A check-in usually carried out within a week of the debrief.

To find out more, or to arrange workplace post-trauma support for your team, get in touch with me today.