If your employees have been involved in or witnessed a traumatic event such as: sudden death; an attack; serious accident or close call; or injury of a relative, friend or colleague; please seek help immediately. The earlier an intervention can be made the less likely people are to take time off work or develop Post Traumatic Stress. By engaging on site support at an early stage you are supporting your staff through their traumas and helping to create a happy and profitable workforce.
Why Call In A Specialist Critical Incident Stress Manager (CISM)?
Calling in a trained and experienced person is one of the most effective ways to care for people after they have experienced a traumatic or critical incident. Dawn Haworth has an MSc in Psychological Trauma and provides a safe, supportive and confidential environment for people to process the psychological effects of the traumatic situation. Any critical incident has the potential to disrupt normal routines and/or result in people feeling unable to work. The aim for managing critical incidents is to help people recover and return to work and normal routine as soon as possible.
Following an incident you may observe no noticeable effect on some people but despondency in others. That’s the nature of being human. It’s worth noting that when people are affected their levels of productivity, accuracy and demeanour may be reduced, meaning the business is not as profitable as it was. If left unattended the worst case scenarios can mean employees are absent from work with Post Traumatic Stress. This may sound dramatic, yet it is a reality.
Critical Incident Support Is:
On-site support from a Trauma Specialist (or team).
Psychological-education about the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural reactions to trauma, and how to make a healthy recovery.
Your opportunity to demonstrate empathy and understanding, by giving staff time and space to debrief and defuse what has happened to them before, during and after the incident.
Specialist one-to-one trauma counselling (where necessary).
How Will I Know My Workforce Has Been Affected?
Some people may react immediately following an event while others may be delayed by hours, days or even weeks. Their reaction may persist for a day or two; some people may take longer to process the event. It is quite normal for people to experience emotional “aftershocks” following a difficult event Sometimes people have little or no reaction and that is okay too. It all depends on the person, their emotional attachment; proximity and the severity of the event. Some people can be affected even if they were not involved or witnessed the scene. What is known is the earlier support (usually within 48 hours) can be accessed the sooner people recover.
Signs of critical incident stress can be physical, cognitive, emotional and/or behavioural all of which have the potential to interfere with people’s ability to function at work or in general.
Physical Symptoms: fatigue; nausea; tremors; chest pain; rapid heart rate; difficulty breathing; thirst; headaches; vomiting; weakness; dizziness; sweating; chills; etc
Cognitive Symptoms: blaming someone; confusion; lowered awareness; poor concentration; memory problems; hyper-vigilance; difficulty identifying familiar people/objects; reduced ability to solve problems; loss of time; poor orientation; nightmares; intrusive images; etc
Emotional Symptoms: unusually strong or inappropriate emotional reactions; anxiety; guilt; grief; denial; panic; shock; fear; uncertainty; depression; apprehension; feeling overwhelmed; anger; agitation; etc
Behavioural Symptoms: Change in speech pattern; withdrawal; suspiciousness; change in usual communication; loss/increase in appetite; alcohol consumption; inability to rest; antisocial acts; nonspecific bodily complaints; hyper-alert to environment; startles easily; pacing or erratic movements; etc
How Can I Support My Employees?
You may feel awkward or embarrassed and have your own feelings about the event that are difficult to resolve. Most of all, you may simply feel you don’t know what to say. The tips below may help you formulate a response that shows your colleagues you care and want to be supportive.
Acknowledge What Happened You might instinctively think ‘least said, soonest mended’, but it won’t help affected individuals recover. Acknowledge the incident by talking or writing to the people affected; send cards or flowers; or consider making a donation to a related charity.
Listen And Resist Asking Questions Asking detailed questions about what happened can be intrusive and trigger distressing symptoms. Let people know you are there if they need you. If they want to talk, just listen. He or she may repeat details many times; this is an important part of healing. If he or she is not ready to talk, don’t push.
Offer Long Term Support It takes longer to recover from a trauma than most people realise. For instance, a year might seem like enough time to “get over it”, yet first anniversaries of what happened and significant dates are often very difficult for people.
Become Involved When They Return To Work When your employees or colleagues return to work, you will both have natural concerns about their ability to start work; how he or she might look, whether they will want to talk about the event, etc. Get involved in easing their return, if you cannot be present make sure a trusted colleague is; perhaps a phased return would help, especially if the incident happened at the place of work.
Offer Specific And Practical Support Instead of the catch-all, “If there’s anything I can do…”, offer to do specific things such as car sharing, pick up some of their workload, check in with them from time to time etc
Watch For Signs Of Abnormal Reactions Behaviour that would usually be considered strange is quite normal at a time like this: irrational anger, crying spells, a period of seeming to be okay followed by a relapse, etc. But if your colleague seems to be seriously disturbed, if the symptoms go on for weeks, and if he or she is not involved in counselling then arrange for professional help from a Trauma Specialist.
Act Fast And Don’t Wait For The Symptoms
Rather than waiting for signs of distress – which will be felt by employees long before they allow others to see they are struggling – seek professional help and support. You can contact me, Dawn Haworth, on 07818 840 841 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will always be in control of the costs by agreeing what you are willing to fund. Obviously the recommended level of support will be influenced by the severity of the incident and number of people affected. Fees are £100 an hour per Trauma Specialist on site, plus travel or overnight expenses (at cost).