A critical incident is basically a fairly sudden, unanticipated situation or event that falls outside the normal everyday routine. The situation can be threatening to the life, health and safety of your staff members. A critical event could include:
• Severe verbal aggression
• Deprivation of freedom
• Serious injury
• Unexpected death
• Threat of suicide or suicide
• Hostage threat or bombing
• Electrical storm, flood, earthquake or other natural disasters
• Chemical or gas hazard
When critical incidents take place, they are typically emotionally devastating to individuals who experienced the event or for those who knew the individuals who were involved. These incidents cause major physical, emotional and cognitive reactions. Critical incident counselling provides response services, which usually entail a range of group interventions.
Reactions and Symptoms That Could Require Counselling
Trauma reactions are very common and to be anticipated from survivors of harrowing events. Sometimes called “cataclysms of emotion,” short-term reactions an individual can experience involve a wide variety of emotions like:
• Homicidal ideation
• Suicidal ideation
Included among the physical symptoms are:
• Muscle tremors
• Sleep disturbances
• Eating disturbances
• Heart palpitations
• Profuse sweating
For some of these symptoms, they are manifested right after a critical incident; however, there are others that take a while to come to the surface and develop into long-term reactions. If left untreated and these reactions turn into chronic experiences, the affected person could end up abusing drugs and/or alcohol in an attempt to cover up the symptoms and try to cope.
In addition, there could be an increase in lower productivity and absenteeism, if individuals are not given the necessary empowerment tools and management skills to use as coping mechanisms after the life-threatening incident has occurred.
The importance of providing relief to victims of traumatic events cannot be undermined; however, many of us tend to overlook the fact that the individuals providing services to others are in need of help as well. This is another very important role of critical incident counseling and as such, emergency and rescue workers, along with other first responders like firefighters, police officers and military personnel can take full advantage of this type of intervention.