Over the last few months, the UK has experienced several very public disasters in London and Manchester.
3 of these have been terrorist attacks and the horrific ‘Grenfell’ tower block fire.
All of our emergency services have shown us worldwide how professional, dedicated, determined and fearless they are in the face of such danger.
Very often in the aftermath of such disasters the suffering of these helpers goes un-noticed, some will find it very difficult to reveal their emotions, mainly because they are trained and expected by others to be ‘copers’.
Most will not consider themselves to be victims of any serious incident they are tending, some may be at more risk than others of suffering trauma such as those who may need to deal with a dead body.
Debriefing in these circumstances is vital and should aim to:
- Review the helper’s role
- Help with the expression of feelings
- Explore the problems encountered and solutions found
- Identify positive gains
- Identify those at risk
Those attending debriefing sessions may find it easier to report the factual information first, this can lead on quite naturally to how they are feeling emotionally.
In the aftermath of working on such disasters, there are both positive and negative aspects to take into consideration.
Looking at the negatives, these helpers may suffer a sense of despair, being overwhelmed, feeling useless, particularly if they couldn’t save someone.
Some will suffer problems at home, relationships may become difficult and flashbacks to the event may occur.
On the positive side, helpers can feel a sense of satisfaction, saving a life will be a memorable event. Self-reassurance about how they coped and friendship bonding with other helpers.
It’s important for the helper to be reminded of the positive outcomes, even those that may be difficult for them such as retrieving body parts, which is so important for the bereaved family.
Debriefing for our emergency services also provides the chance for those managing teams to identify members who may be experiencing emotional difficulties, early intervention support can be invaluable in these circumstances.
Without help, it is not uncommon for some to experience an increased use of alcohol and tobacco. Work performance can suffer and often chronic exhaustion is felt.
All of our emergency services deserve to have access to good Counselling; their wellbeing is of paramount importance in order for them to continue giving us the best possible service.
Thankfully it is becoming more acceptable to seek support, and management within the emergency services now acknowledge and offer this support for all its members.