Posted by: healingtheworkplace | July 31, 2009

Dealing With Traumatic Events In The Workplace

Boy it’s HOT! So, today’s post will be a short one.

The following information comes from the Vancouver Civic Employees Assistance Program. This EAP provides information to help Vancouver City employees deal with a variety of issues both within and outside their workplace.

Sometimes we experience traumatic events (also known as critical incidents) in the workplace. If we are “lucky” we have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other helping professionals.

Unfortunately not everyone has access to these resources and so it is up to all of us to be aware of what we can do if the situation warrants it.

Are you prepared to deal with “critical incidents” in your workplace? 

Critical incidents are traumatic events such as a death or a shocking accident that is experienced directly (for example, being an eye witness).

Traumatic events can also be experienced indirectly whens someone learns about the sudden death or a loved one, friend or colleague.

What can you do if someone close to you is suffering from the ill effects of a traumatic situation?

Here are some suggestions to guide you:

  • Learn about critical stress so you can begin to understand what the other person is experiencing. If you know what to expect, it will be easier for you to be supportive.
  • Be available to listen. This is probably the most important thing you can do.
  • Reassure them that it is okay to show strong emotions. Crying helps the healing process.
  • Be aware that not everyone will express emotions. Some people might try to numb their thoughts and feelings with alcohol and/or drugs. Not a good idea.
  • Encourage them to eat regular meals, sleep, exercise and try to relax.
  • The most common form of reaction following a critical incident is the “trigger response”. Any sight, sound, smell, or touch that is similar to what the person experienced may “trigger” a physical, mental or emotional reaction.
  • Be alert for signs of depression, anxiety or sleep deprivation and talk to them about it.
  • Help them reach out to a helping professional (psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, counsellor, chaplain etc.)

Here are some things not to do:

  • Don’t tell them they are “lucky it wasn’t worse”.
  • Don’t downplay or judge the symptoms.
  • Don’t expect the person to get over their trauma quickly.

The symptoms are real and treatment and recovery takes time.

Take care! Lesley   


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