Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coping with difficult incidents

Being particularly empathetic in nature, I think just about any critical incident would present it's own coping difficulties, if not during then certainly after, particularly depending on the outcome.

Horrifying circumstances:
  • Severe injuries to the student - savage assault, mutilation, burns, permanent brain injury or limb / mobility loss.
  • Murder /rape / assault of a student
  • Suicide
  • Injury, physical abuse or Death of a child
  • Violent death / Multiple casualties /deaths- eg: Shooting / bomb explosion.
Which stakeholders would be most affected and why? Again, the strength of reactions of immediate circle of friends / family / staff members and the greater community, will depend upon the eventual reason for the student being missing. Not that trauma can really be graded into lesser and worse case scenarios, but an injury or severe injury may not cause "as much" shock and grief in the greater community than say a violent death scenario (eg: An Australian version of the Jakarta or Bali bombing)

  • (Immediate) Friends (shock, loss, grief, anger)
  • (Immediate) Family (language difficulties, difficulty understanding process & procedure, grief, shock, anger)
  • Accommodation / Homestay provider
  • Housemates
  • (Greater circle) Class mates, acquaintances, students at educational institution, students at other educational institutions. (shock at events / outcome, concern for personal safety, anxiety, mistrust of others)

Critical Incident Management Team (being privy to perhaps more detailed information than others)

International Support, Student Services Staff, including administrative and counselling staff.(coalface support of CIMT, immediate friends and family of the student and greater community, depending on the incident.)

External Emergency Services (Police, Ambulance, State Emergency Service, Hospital staff - again - depends on the incident)

Religious affiliations (counselling and if necessary - damage control, particularly if a crime has been committed)
  • eg: we have not yet seen it in Australia, (thank goodness) but how would we cope / manage a situation where a student has been involved in a terrorist act - eg: London subway bombings, Madrid train bomb, Bali restaurant bomb etc etc. or
  • is revealed to have been involved with some sort of extremists group who's purpose is to harm?
Interpreters - needing to convey stressful messages at a time of great emotional upheaval.

What suggestions and assistance would you give them to provide support?
  • Memorial service invitation
  • Debriefing session
  • Personal counselling availability to students, staff and affected community members at no cost at the Universities Student Services.
  • Creation and issue of a pamphlet or brochure along the lines of UOS (2006) "How to cope with the effects of critical incident stress" with contact numbers for support.
What factors would make the incident difficult for you to cope with?

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

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