PEER SUPPORT FOR TRAUMATIC AND CRITICAL INCIDENTS
Emergency service work, by its very nature, exposes personnel to incidents not normally experienced by the general public. These may be critical incidents in the sense that exposure to scenes, situations and events might potentially lead to critical incident stress. It is these incidents that are abnormal, and not the individuals’ reactions. Nevertheless, the reactions need to be recognised and dealt with appropriately.
Hints that may help to alleviate the emotional pain associated with a traumatic event:
- Try to rest a bit more
- Contact friends
- Have someone stay with you for at least a few hours or periods in a day
- Recurring 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 fell like it)
- Try to keep a reasonable level of activity
- Fight against boredom
- Physical activity is often helpful
- Re-establish a normal schedule as soon as possible
- Express your feelings as they arise
- Talk to people who support you
- Contact a peer support if the feelings become prolonged or too intense.
Peer Support Teams are designed to support fellow emergency service personnel (permanent and Volunteer) in dealing with their reactions to Critical Incident Stress. The service is provided by a group of concerned Volunteers who are themselves members of these services. The teams follow an internationally respected model of intervention and provides a unique peer support service based on a co-operative approach between management
of the services, unions and members of the emergency service themselves.
What is the role of a Peer Supporter?
- To offer support to fellow workers suffering normal reactions following involvement
- in a traumatic and/or critical incident
- To allow sharing of a peer’s vulnerability and other emotions without losing status
- To validate another’s normal but sometimes terribly unpleasant responses
- To maintain strict confidentiality regarding support activities including topics
- discussed and personnel involved
- To provide a referral system to professional counselling if required.
A cornerstone to the success of the program has been the commitment to confidentiality. Anything revealed in a debrief or brought to the attention of a Peer Supporter remain strictly confidential and no record is made of its content.
Peer Support Contact Details (SES) 1800 15 33 44
WELL BEING – MANAGING STRESS AND FATIGUE
During your duties you may have experienced tiredness from a long shift or from a series of extended shifts. You may have been tired even before being called out. Stress is also a natural part of life – a certain amount of stress can energise us and provide us with interest and challenge. However, stress resulting from fatigue or day-to-day pressures can seriously affect your capacity to work effectively. Working throughout tiredness can be difficult and frustrating – it can also be very dangerous. It is difficult to admit to ourselves, let alone our colleagues, that we are suffering from stress or fatigue. Yet clearly some of the duties undertaken by SES, such as attending emergencies, can be highly stressful.
Some tips to manage stress and fatigue before, during and after an incident:
- Getting enough sleep
- Having a good diet
- Exercising regularly
- Taking rest breaks between shifts
- Taking time out for relaxation
- Maintaining your hobbies or interests
- Having social hobbies or interests
- Having social supports, such as family and friends
- Spending some extra time with your pet
- Doing things you enjoy
- Keeping your sense of humour
- Talking to people
- Seeking professional help, if necessary (refer to Peer Support)