As leaders, you hope your employees will never have to experience a crisis situation or be exposed to a traumatic event. However, the sad truth is that these unfortunate events do occur, and when they do, an organization needs to be ready to provide professional mental health care.
Homewood Pathfinder’s Critical Incident Support is designed to offer comfort, support, information, and guidance to employees after a workplace crisis. A critical incident is a traumatic or troubling event that is sudden, unexpected, and outside the normal realm of daily experience. An unexpected crisis such as this can take many different forms but can include:
- Sudden death of a colleague
- Serious injury or threat of serious injury or death
- Acts of violence such as assault, abuse, terrorism, hostage-taking, etc.
- Serious work-site accidents
- Responding to emergency situations
- Multiple casualties
- Witnessing a suicide
- Death or serious trauma to children
Though some industries, such as healthcare and emergency services, are more susceptible to critical incidences, all workplaces are vulnerable to experiencing similar misfortunes. Additionally, some employees react differently to stressful situations – after all, we are all unique people with dynamic personalities. So, it’s helpful to understand the difference between normal experience and critical incident stress.
Normal experience is a routine experience for one person, whereas the same event can be felt as a crisis for someone else in the same organization. Nonetheless, there may still be events that are beyond routine experience or abnormal, even for experienced personnel. Such incidents typically evoke strong emotional, physical, and behavioural responses and may include or be worsened by stress that is part of the normal day-to-day working environment. No one is immune to this stress, even those who are experienced and desensitized.
When stress rises above normal experience, it can manifest in:
- Physical reactions: Fatigue, shock symptoms, sweating, chest pain, nausea
- Cognitive reactions: Memory dysfunction, decreased problem-solving or decision-making abilities, confusion
- Emotional reactions: Anxiety/fear, guilt, depression, anger, grief, irritability
- Behavioural reactions: Withdrawal, sick time, under- or over-eating, escape behaviours
Our clinical team responds to these reactions on the same day of the critical incident to provide confidential and non-judgmental services that:
- Normalize the employee’s experience
- Encourage group cohesion and social support-seeking behaviours
- Encourage participants to utilize constructive methods for dealing with acute stress, including talking things out and consciously choosing concrete actions that empower individuals
- Decrease the likelihood that participants will use destructive means to cope with stress
- Encourage those individuals who may need more support to overcome acute stress arising from the event to access individualized services
Also, a clinician will provide “on the spot” crisis assessment and services that include:
- Consultation with the on-site manager regarding potential on-site safety considerations/risks, particularly for safety-sensitive positions
- Identification of a “safe” and “calm” on-site location for individual and small group service
- Identification of who is at the epicentre of the incident
- Prioritizing who is most in need of immediate service and how
- Assessment of shock reactions and appropriate response
- On-the-spot intervention to calm and stabilize the crisis climate, which may incorporate “walk-around” on-site to engage employees, in addition to small group and other individual services
Ultimately, the goal of our Critical Incident Support services is to provide a safe environment for those most impacted to speak about their experience regarding the event through individual and group intervention. As a result, employees will receive:
- Acknowledgement and validation to normalize their physical and emotional reactions
- Helpful information from a professional about how to cope with stress reactions associated with a critical incident
- Guidance to focus on their personal strengths and resourcefulness to support adaptive coping and a healthy recovery.
Contact us to learn more about how you can support your employees in the event of a critical incident.