Critical Incident Stress Management
Public safety employees are often subjected to high levels of stress during the performance of their duties and at times are subjected to an event that has sufficient emotional impact that overwhelms ones usual abilities to cope. The CISM program is designed to provide support where there is a likelihood that employees will be subjected to significantly abnormal stress either during a police incident or at its conclusion. The program has been developed to mediate the effects that result from a critical incident. The purpose is to provide a controlled setting for employees to vent stress and feelings that occur as a result of a critical incident. Team members are professionally trained and will remain with the involved employee until the incident conclusion. The CISM members maintain the appropriate, maximum level of confidentiality. This program is an employee-based program.
A resource list which includes a peer support member list, a police chaplain list and information on the employee assistance program can be found on the Phoenix Police Department’s internal website.
With regard to Post Use of Force Counseling, Operations Order 1.5.9.D.5. states that supervisors will facilitate scheduling the involved employee with a one-on-one psychological debriefing with one of the contract psychologists.
How to activate CISM services: When an officer is involved in a use of force incident CISM will be activated through the radio supervisor. When any department employee is involved in a traumatic event and the supervisor feels CISM can assist contact can be made through the radio supervisor.
The City of Phoenix, in association with MHN, offers each employee (including part-time and temporary employees) and their immediate household members professional counseling services for personal, family, or work related problems.
Critical incidents have the potential to deeply affect a person’s life due to their severity and the emotional devastation they may potentially bring. Situations that may not ordinarily affect one person may have a tremendous impact on another. Virtually any event in one’s life may affect their ability to cope with and process traumatic events. Listed below are several tips for managing the traumatic event.
- Try to rest a bit more
- Contact friends
- Have someone stay with you for a least a few hours or periods of a day or so
- Reoccurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks are normal – don’t try to fight them – they will decrease over time and become less painful
- Maintain as normal a schedule as possible
- Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even when you don’t feel like it)
- Try to keep a reasonable level of activity
- Fight against boredom (physical activity is often helpful)
- Express your feelings as they arise
- Talk to people who love you
- Find a good counselor if the feelings become prolonged or too intense
For Family Members and Friends
- Listen carefully
- Spend time with the traumatized person
- Offer your assistance and a listening ear even if they have not asked for help
- Reassure them that they are safe
- Help them with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking,
- Caring for the family, minding children
- Give them some private time
- Do not take their anger or other feelings personally
- Do not tell them that they are “lucky it wasn’t worse” – traumatized people are not consoled by those statements. Instead tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want to understand and assist them
If the symptoms described above are severe or if they last longer than six weeks, the traumatized person may need professional counseling.