Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Community Connections, Fall 2003
Incident Stress Management
Critical incidents occur daily to individuals as well as groups of people. Acts of war or terror and natural disasters are critical incidents but so too are witnessing or being in an accident, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence and having surgery. What makes the incident critical is the perception of the beholder. These extraordinary circumstances can make the individual feel terrified, powerless and/or horrified in the face of threatened or actual injury or death.
need for psychological support after a critical incident has been known
since WWII when the term “shell shock” emerged to describe
a group of symptoms that could severely challenge an individual's ability
to cope with daily life. An estimated ten percent of all personnel who
fought in World War II experienced these symptoms, which the American
Psychiatric Association called a gross stress reaction. Today, we call
this reaction Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our knowledge of
psycho-eurobiology helps us understand that the imbalance in brain chemistry,
which causes mental illness, can be further disturbed by overwhelming
stress. Thanks to pioneers such as Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell, we also now know
some very simple, effective techniques to minimize or prevent the effects
of critical incidents. Critical incidents may produce a wide range of
symptoms, which can appear immediately, a few hours later, or within days
or weeks of the event. The more traumatic the incident, the more powerful
impact the stress reaction will have on the individual. Some symptoms
Research shows that the way a person takes care of him or herself during the first few days following a traumatic event will help to minimize the future psychological reactions to the event. Understanding these reactions can help you deal with the trauma of the event.
your body is affected by your mind and vice-versa, you will experience
both emotional and physical reactions simultaneously. Therefore, it is
important to follow
For more information and assistance see: www.icisf.org.