Early intervention is simple and cost effective
Initial support after a critical incident is normally limited to education, brief emotional support and ‘psychological first aid’. Psychological first aid includes actions to help people feel safe and calm, connected to others, hopeful and empowered to help themselves, with access to physical resources and emotional and social support.
Delaying the offer of support can be costly
Delaying a mental health response and the offer of support and monitoring can lead to costly treatment down the track as people develop psychological injuries that could have been prevented.
The response to trauma varies greatly from person to person
Personal history and personal disposition are important factors in adjusting to stress. You won’t always know how a person is coping based on their outward behaviour or apparent personality. Often even ‘strong characters’ are vulnerable and hide this well leading to a greater risk of psychological injury, break down and the need for longer term compensation.
Traumatic stress injuries like PTSD may develop some time after the actual event
Posttraumatic stress can develop several months after a traumatic event. Don’t assume everyone is ok just because people seem to be coping ok. People may be reluctant to reveal distress sometime after the event and may try to minimise their symptoms to avoid shame and stigma in the workplace. This may make the psychological injury worse.
Unchecked and untreated traumatic stress response can reduce employee well-being
This may lead to lost productivity, impaired personal functioning and higher long-term claim costs. Staff and business both loose out. It is therefore important for any organisation to have the capacity to respond swiftly to workplace trauma.
In the first instance:
It is important to be able to offer immediate support in the form of empathy and encouragement. A person who has been subjected to trauma may need simple acts of compassion from work colleagues, time off to recoup with family or friends, they might wish to talk about their experience or they might need gentle assistance to ‘get back on the horse’.
Everyone responds to trauma in different ways and not everyone who experiences trauma will go on to suffer from traumatic stress. It is nonetheless important for managers to be aware of some of the signs of posttraumatic stress so they can know what to watch out for.
SYMPTOMS OF TRAUMA RELATED PSYCHOLOGICAL INJURY:
- Unusual displays of irritability
- Reduced workplace performance
- Withdrawal from social activities or from interpersonal communication
- Conflict with work colleagues
- Increased intake of alcohol
- Melancholy or other signs of depression
- Changes in personality
- Sleeping problems
- Engaging in risky behaviour or undertakings
If your workplace has experienced a traumatic incident contact EAP Assist as soon as possible after the incident for advice.