STRESSPersonalNow Is The Time To talk

Now Is The Time To talk

Critical Incident Stress Debrief, Stress, Firehall, Fire Fighters, Mental Health - CRACKYL MAGAZINE

By: Jeffrey Hoscick

Experiences first appear within us in a place without words, and it sits in the middle of our space until it is filed or processed.

As the clinical director for the CISM team through the Nova Scotia Fire Services Association, I have been frequently asked about quick tips after a difficult call. This article gives a quick overview and the most crucial consideration.

Timing. When an incident occurs, we experience a spike of adrenaline. This spike of adrenaline results in a shift of perspective. When we have the energy to run like a horse or fight like a bear, we will either be hyper-focused or unfocused. Give grace for yourself as you process this disruption.

The development of stress

Experiences first appear within us in a place without words, and it sits in the middle of our space until it is filed or processed. As a CISM team, we often wait until 24-48 hours after the incident, mostly because we can’t process the disruption while still running or fighting. When the adrenaline rush becomes the “What ifs”… it is time to process the event.

It is at this moment we need to address the disruption before we get too used to it. Our inner deputy chief, the unconscious mind, will freeze-dry the experience and store it. A trigger will reconstitute it immediately, usually at another disruptive moment when least prepared to deal with old disruptions. Then, you will have two (or more) to deal with at the same time.

What is a critical incident stress debrief?

A Critical Incident Stress Debrief is a structured conversation about the incident: what happened, the most lingering disruption, the symptoms and how to bust the stress. The structured conversation exists because nobody can find words adequately to process the experience. “Many hands make light work,” as the Chinese proverb says. It also shifts the experience from being locked inside of us to a shared experience. What works best is when people who share the same experience borrow words from each other and get a fuller picture of the incident from top to bottom. It relieves lingering doubts, completes the picture, helps to build a team and gives a language to relate the experience to our loved ones, rather than merely transferring our haunting image to our loved ones.

When should this debrief happen for firefighters?

I know of a fire department who has a debrief after every death or disturbing call. They come to be fully present. They recognize they may be quite resilient and not need it. They come to know the presentation better than the presenters. They go because they know if an hour invested now will reduce the surprise of being triggered by later. They come to keep their department a healthy stress-free work environment. They know if they come, they are giving a gift to themselves and their colleagues. They like to keep accounts short, so they can retire on their terms when they choose.

Find a CISM team in your area and have them come to your department for an education session, inviting your spouse/partner to attend with you.    

Jeffrey Hosick – Psychotherapist, Fire Department Chaplain, Trauma Specialist, Author, Professional Speaker and Firefighter