Critical Incident Stress Management – helping victims at traumatic events

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Recent mass shootings have brought to light once again, the trauma experienced not only by victim, but first responders and even witnesses. Sadly these events aren’t new. Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell, who played a leading role in developing techniques to help people in psychological shock, says he started seeing a need for a special kind of help back in the 1970’s.

“Back in the late 1970’s I saw emergency personnel who went through horrible events and some left their jobs and some suffered in silence,” says Dr Mitchell, a psychologist.   “That’s when I decided we had to do something.”

Dr. Mitchell helped start a program called Critical Incident Stress Management or CISM. It’s a program which teaches just about anyone, some very basic strategies, when dealing with a person or group, who’s been through a stressful event.

“It’s not therapy,” says Dr Mitchell. “It’s a group support process or an individual support process. So we’re going to provide something that can help  them stay on a job, get back to work.  We’re not going to rush that, we’re going to help them take those steps.”

Much of CISM is listening, allowing the victim time to talk and process the event.

“Listening is one of the most important things that we can do. They need to tell their story, they need to tell the worst part of that story. Why? Because the research shows when people talk about a traumatic experience they mentally  and psychologically process it and when they process it, then the tension goes down.”

The training sessions for CISM are held throughout the year. They may take a day or two. They are fairly straight forward. Volunteers learn group and one on one strategies.  But CISM is not for everyone.  There are about

“You really want to think about, am I  good in a crises situation?” says Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor and instructor with CISM. “Am I interested in helping people? Am I a good listener? Do I take care of myself? Do I want to learn a particular technique?”

There are an estimated 35 to 40 CISM teams in Indiana.

To learn more about CISM click on the link below.

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