Being jolted out of a deep sleep and a great dream by an alarm clock is stressful. But we can quickly calm our racing heart and get on with our day. This is called a normal stress reaction. Something happens (the ringing alarm is the stressor), we experience a stress response, we do what we need to do and return to a calm state. When we are dealing with several stressors at the same time that keep us on high alert, we are experiencing cumulative stress. Critical incident stress (CIS) is a third and quite different type of response.
CIS is "a normal reaction to an abnormal situation". It is the reaction we have when confronted with a set of circumstances that are so far outside of our usual experience that we may not be able to function. Fire, police, paramedics and other first responders are susceptible to CIS because of the work they do. But so are employees when they are let go because their place of employment ceases operating. So are employees when there is an injury or death of a coworker in their workplace. So are people caught up in the chaos of a natural disaster. But it doesn’t have to be what some would call a "major" event to trigger a CIS response. None of us knows for sure what circumstances will impact us until they do.
Critical Incident Response (CIR) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are two of several intervention models designed to help people with their reactions to what they experience as overwhelming events. Ron has facilitated hundreds of interventions with first responders, employees and community groups. Participants report that taking part in these interventions has been helpful.
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