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Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

What Is A Critical Incident?

It is any extraordinary event, circumstance or series of events, which are outside the range of ordinary human experiences. They are overwhelming, powerful and generally disruptive to individuals, groups or communities. Some examples are earthquakes, floods, war, assault, robbery, suicide, fire, explosions, hostage situations, accidents, kidnappings, and death. After such a critical incident it is normal to experience a wide variety of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Critical incident stress is the emotional, behavioural and physiological reaction to an emergency worker when confronted with acute trauma. Specifically, when there is unexpected mission failure, excessive human suffering or unusual sights or sounds (eg. grotesque victims), or when there is a threat to the life of the worker, emergency personnel can experience a traumatic stress response. Critical incident stress (C.I.S.) has the potential to affect one's ability to function either at the scene of an incident or later. The most effective way to minimize the negative effect of C.I.S. is through a C.I.S. debriefing facilitated by a trained mental health professional.

What is a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (C.I.S.D)?

The psychologist of a C.I.S.D. holds a meeting with all of those involved in or affected by the incident, either individually or in a group. This is not a therapy session, but a discussion of the event. During this meeting each person has the opportunity to "debrief" from the incident. This includes telling the story from their own individual perspective, as well as sharing their thoughts and feelings about it. We then look at what each person is experiencing symptomatically as a result of the trauma and information is provided to help deal with these symptoms. In addition the psychologist will educate the group about the stages of traumatic events and normal responses to incidents. Questions are addressed and a plan of action is developed.

Why is a C.I.S.D. important?

Holding a C.S.I.D can play an important role in preventing the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by providing an immediate sense of safety, mutual support and education, as well as an opportunity for venting feelings, normalisation of symptoms and creating a plan for action.

What are the logistics of holding a C.I.S.D.?

The C.I.S.D. is optimally within two days after the event at the place where the group usually convenes, for example, on the job or in the home. If this is not convenient, Parkside Medical have both private rooms and group facilities available.  Individuals should expect to devote a minimum of one to two hours to the debrief depending on their exposure to the event.  If several people have been exposed to the same event, it may be preferable to have a group debrief possibly taking three to four hours.

Parkside Medical have a number of trained psychologists available for almost immediate C.I.S.D.

Further Information

Please contact Parkside Medical for further information.