What is Critical

Incident Stress



In recent times there has been an increase in the number of incidents that can have a traumatic effect on employees and individuals. They may have experienced a disturbing event that is outside the range of usual human experience, causing unusually strong emotional reactions and which also have the potential to interfere with a person’s ability to function normally.
For example:

  • Serious threat to one’s life.
  • Serious threat to one’s children, partner, relative or friends.
  • Sudden death.
  • Violent assault.
  • Fatal accident.
  • Sudden destruction of one’s home or community.
  • Seeing another person who has recently been, or is being, seriously injured or killed as the result of an accident or physical violence.
  • A traumatic accident on site.

Following events of this nature there are likely to be psychological consequences for those involved ie. the person/people involved, rescuers, onlookers and supervisors. To reduce the risk of long term post- traumatic difficulties it is important to provide prompt and effective support for those affected.
All employers have a Duty Of Care under the Health & Safety Act 1989 to provide support and counselling for all psychological hazards. Debriefing, Peer Support and Trauma Counselling are some of the responses designed to minimise harmful exposure from stressful situations. Abate Counselling & EAP Limited’s proven Critical Incident Stress Management Programme provides a service that is comprehensive, systematic and multi-tactic in its approach to crisis intervention.


Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is used for individuals and groups who have been exposed to an event that is outside their normal range of experience such as natural disasters, major fatal accidents including train, bus and rail accidents, incidents such as workplace assaults and armed raids which have the capacity to disable psychologically.
People who experience traumatic incidents may experience a completely altered view of life and anxiety about their emotional health and future. Symptoms may be distressing and can include nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. Family members will be affected and difficulties such as increased accidents and poor work performance may be experienced in the workplace. Health problems, such as a rise in blood pressure and loss of sleep may be experienced. There is also an increased risk of accidents both on and off the job.
Debriefing meetings for affected employees/individuals is an important element of post trauma recovery and helps individuals identify their support needs and the coping techniques available to them. Abate Counselling & EAP Limited has at its disposal highly trained specialists in this field and provides on-site facilitation of the post-incident process that helps to abate the onset of post trauma stress.

Types of CISM


Abate Counselling & EAP Limited has CISM support mechanisms, which include the following:
1. Defusing: Those directly involved in an incident meet as a group with a “peer supporter” the purpose of which is to discuss the experience and normalise their reaction to it. They are given practical advice in relation to the reaction they are likely to experience and how best to care for themselves. Defusing does not delve deeply into the incident, as its impact may not be fully absorbed.

2. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing: Individuals directly involved in a critical incident meet as a group with a trained specialist who works with them in dealing with their reactions.

3. Individual Sessions: Those involved may have individual needs in coping with the present traumatic event or where other past experiences have been evoked. Face-to-face counselling sessions are designed to enable the individual discuss their concerns and identify whatever ongoing support may be needed.

4. Demobilising: This is a procedure carried out when large numbers of people are involved in major disasters such as plane accidents, earthquakes and train disasters. Its primary function is looking after the basic needs of the people involved in such traumatic events i.e. food, rest and gathering information.

5. Follow Up Care: Follow up care will vary from incident to incident. Some individuals may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) immediately after the event while others may have delayed onset six months after the incident. Provision should be made for ongoing trauma counselling and aftercare.

Trauma –

How can you

help yourself?

Research shows that those who seek support for all aspects of their health and well being, i.e. both physically and mentally, after a traumatic event tend to recover quicker, and more successfully, than those who tend to ‘bottle’ up their feelings.

  • It helps to understand that your responses are completely normal and that recovery from trauma needs time and compassion
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling – it is common to want to share your feelings over and over again. Don’t feel you are being a burden on people close to you by discussing the traumatic event.
  • Begin to restore order onto your world by re-establishing familiar routines. People usually find that returning to normality as quickly as possible speeds up the recovery process.
  • Prioritise your issues and address them one at a time. Put off making important decisions when you are dealing with so much.
  • Seek information, advice and help and rely on people you trust. Find out what is expected from you in days to come so you can plan ahead.


Ask Yourself The Following Questions:

  • Am I having excessive mood swings for no reason?
  • Am I avoiding talking about the incident?
  • Am I convincing myself the incident has not had an impact on me?
  • Am I experiencing intrusive imagery?
  • Am I having problems eating or sleeping?
  • Has my caffeine/alcohol level intake increased?
  • Do I get emotional or tearful for no reason?
  • Am I irritable and snapping at people for no reason?
  • Do usually small issues seem like a major burden?
  • Am I overly cautious to everyday events or unusually cheerful?
  • This information is intended to help you to understand your potential responses to a traumatic incident. It is not designed to be a substitute for the role of professionals who have vast experience in counselling and trauma support.

If you are experiencing any of the above or would like to talk further about how you are feeling, contact Abate Counselling & EAP Limited or your GP. Early intervention, i.e. help and support will make all the difference to you.


and its effects

A critical incident or disaster can be an overwhelming tragedy and many people who have experienced such a traumatic event may feel distressed by disturbing and uncomfortable sensations. The following information has been developed to help you understand the impact on you, both physically and psychologically. Understanding your feelings is crucial towards recovering your pre-trauma state and you may find it helpful also to allow those close to you to read this handout as they support you.

While each person deals with unexpected incidents in his or her own way victims, witnesses, colleagues, friends and loved ones report some common reactions. You may experience the following reactions often or occasionally and varying in intensity according to circumstances.

  • You may feel angry and question why this has happened to you, wanting to blame someone.
  • You may be feeling helpless and/or confused.
  • You may feel angry and question why this has happened to you, wanting to blame someone. You may become irritable, experience loss of control, and question why others don’t understand you feel.
  • You may feel anxious about losing loved ones, the incident re-occurring or of being alone.
  • You may feel sad, tearful or re-experience strong feelings for other losses unrelated to this incident. Do remember crying can give relief.
  • You may feel exceptionally tired, drained of emotions, exhausted.
  • You may sometimes feel uncharacteristically cautious about everyday events – loud noises, crossing the road, cats wandering in the garden, travelling etc.
  • You may be unable to feel anything, leaving you numb.
  • This incident may remind you of other incidents, losses or bereavements in your life possibly when you least expect it.
  • You may be thinking about the event over and over again, finding it difficult to concentrate or make decisions.
  • You may experience feelings of frustration and may not be able to recall desired information or details about the event.
  • You may find that anger is a particularly strong emotion for you at this stage.
  • You may have physical injuries that cause you pain and discomfort.
  • You may experience sleep disturbance and find it difficult to eat and drink.

The above are common, normal reactions to an abnormal event. They are the body’s way of indicating the level of shock you have experienced and that you need to take care of yourself. Accidents are common during this stressful time – drive more carefully and be more careful around the home.

63 Claremont Crescent, Glasnevin, Dublin 11

1800 222 833