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Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

What is CISM?

The events in the first 48 hours after a critical incident can be the most significant. This is the period when people try to make sense of what has occurred and reestablish reasonable mastery of their universe. People also try to attach a sense of meaning to life and strengthen caring human attachments.

CISM is incident stress management assistance designed to stabilize signs of distress and dysfunction, facilitate a reduction in symptoms and a return to independent functioning. CISM can also facilitate access to a higher, more continuous level of care if needed.

CISM is conducted immediately, simply, briefly and confidentially.

What is a Critical Incident?

A critical incident is an event that can disrupt a person’s psychological balance, overwhelm usual coping mechanisms and have the potential to create significant human distress.

*Critical incidents can include:

  • Death of a student
  • Death or Suicide of a Colleague
  • Serious Injury
  • Line of Duty Death
  • Discharge of a Firearm
  • Prolonged Failed Rescue
  • Mass Casualty Incidents
  • Natural Disasters
  • Victim Known to Responder
  • Personal Safety Jeopardized
  • Excessive Media Coverage

Reactions to Critical Incidents

Reactions to critical incidents can fall into five categories: Cognitive, Behavioral, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual reactions. It is not unusual for members of a community to experience some or all of these reactions.

*Cognitive reactions can include:

  • Decision making difficulties
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Unable to perform multiple tasks
  • Flashbacks

*Behavioral reactions can include:

  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Withdrawal
  • Family Discord
  • Crying Spells
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Hyperactivity
  • Alcohol/Drug Abuse

*Physical reactions can include:

  • Muscle Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach

*Emotional reactions can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling detached from reality
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Melancholy

*Spiritual reactions can include:

  • Anger at God
  • Withdrawal from Faith
  • Cessation of Faith-Related Practices

*Please note: Lists are not all inclusive.