It’s a routine day in your busy city office. Nothing unusual until something utterly catastrophic and unexpected ruins your day, maybe your life.
Terrorist attack, industrial accident, natural disaster, lone shooter, unprovoked serious assault, the possibilities are endless. Well, we all know how we would respond to the physical threat because we have plans and rehearsals and our responses are often swift and effective, but what happens the following day? Will things get back to normal? In the following weeks will people be affected? What will the impact be on the workforce and the organisation?
Do you have a plan for the psychological management of your staff, particularly those who are exposed to predictable risk? Will you be able to support them, or is your plan to bring in bus loads of counselors and give them the problem?
Most of the evidence tells us that in the wake of a traumatic event, the majority of people cope, and after a period of readjustment they get on with their lives. Careful tailored management is required and it is vital to be able to identify the minority of people who do less well. This is where risk assessment comes in. If the organisation has written protocols and trained staff, targeted management strategies can be put in place to ensure people are effectively looked after. By training personnel as Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) Practitioners, structured risk assessments can be carried out and those most at risk can be identified before the long term effects of post traumatic stress kick in. TRiM is proven to be highly effective and is in use in the UK military, law enforcement, emergency services and NGOs.
So how does it work? In simple terms you select a team of TRiM practitioners who undergo short (a couple of days) but intensive training. These guys are then able to risk assess their peers and are in a really good position to spot those who are not doing well. The risk assessment takes the form of an informal interview and the practitioner looks to identify the presence of some simple risk factors for traumatic stress. After a month, the procedure is repeated and a comparison is made of the risk assessment results. In this way it is very straight forward to see who is struggling and needs early support from trained medical professionals or counselors (most people don’t). TRiM trained personnel can also deliver educational briefs to those involved and can advise management on best practice after serious events. TRiM is popular because it is delivered internally by peers and colleagues who can be selected from all tiers of management and the workforce based upon individual qualities. The system does not work independently of the medical chain, it compliments it by identifying those who need early intervention. Failing to spot people in trouble stores up problems for the future and we have all seen some of the tragic consequences of untreated PTSD.
The outcome of effective risk assessment will be that those who are in need of specialist help get it when they need it, not years down the line. The organisation is able to demonstrate its duty of care which contributes to workforce morale, legal obligation and corporate reputation. TRiM also helps to reduce workplace sickness absence and makes great economic sense too. To learn more about psychological management after traumatic events visit www.strongmindresilience.co.uk
Richard Dorney, MBE, MStJ, MSc is the Director of Strongmind Resiliency Training Ltd, a UK based company that specialises in post incident trauma management, mental health awareness and resiliency training. Richard served for 39 years as an infantry officer in the British Army and was a Non- clinical expert in military mental health and wellbeing. He holds an MSc in War and Psychiatry from Kings College London and has studied psychotraumatology, mental health first aid and suicide interventions. He is a published author and has a wealth of experience in the delivery of resiliency training to a wide range of civilian, law enforcement and military organisations.