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Stress Debriefings: Responding to the First Responder

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: (March 1995) Pages: 26-28,30-31
R C Davis
Date Published
5 pages
The Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a way that police who are first responders to other people's traumas can deal with the stress and trauma that follows a critical incident.
A CISD is a structured psychological process in which a debriefing team composed of peers and clinicians assists emergency services personnel to deal with the emotional and physical aftershock of a critical incident. It is a confidential, non-evaluative discussion of the involvement, thoughts, reactions, and feelings resulting from the incident. It has both psychological and educational components. At least one peer and one mental health professional are present during the debriefing and share in the debriefing process. This relatively new concept is based on a mental health philosophy that says to talk about feelings rather than stuffing them. Police officers have feelings, but they are often required to stuff their feelings and handle the critical incident. Those repressed feelings can lead to stress, burnout, posttraumatic stress disorder, marital and family problems, drug abuse, serious illness, and even death if they are not appropriately handled. CISD began in the mid-1970's. Law enforcement has been slow to accept the concept due to the need or expectation that police must demonstrate machismo and pretend that nothing can affect them. However, CISD is now rapidly expanding and is becoming a standard operating procedure in many agencies for all first responders. Photographs