Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

CISM Activiation Form CISM Guidance, Policies and Procedures CISM Poster

What is Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)? 

Critical Incident Stress Management, or CISM, is an intervention protocol developed specifically for dealing with traumatic events. It is a formal, highly structured and professionally recognised process for helping those involved in a critical incident to share their experiences, vent emotions, learn about stress reactions and symptoms and given referral for further help if required. It is not psychotherapy.

It is a confidential, voluntary and educative process, sometimes called 'psychological first aid'.

First developed for use with military combat veterans and then civilian first responders (police, fire, ambulance, emergency workers and disaster rescuers), it has now been adapted and used virtually everywhere there is a need to address traumatic impact in people’s lives.

What is a critical incident?  

Critical incidents are unusually challenging events that have potential to create significant human distress and can overwhelm one’s usual coping mechanisms (Mitchell, 2006, p.20).

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM):

It is a specialised package of Critical Incident techniques that are linked to each other and blended together to alleviate the reactions to traumatic experiences.

CISM aims to:

  • Minimise the emotional impact of Critical Incidents on staff
  • Increase the resistance, resilience and recovery of staff to harmful stress
  • Prevent harmful effects on staff by working with and supporting staff at the time of a Critical Incident
  • Aid in preventing any chronic effects such as Acute Stress Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress, through the use of good education, follow up care, and prompt identification and referral to the EAP as required

CISM comprises a continuum of care and targets the response of individuals and groups of individuals to traumatic events rather than the incident or event itself.

Steps to Activating the CISM Process within Tusla

  1. If any personnel feel the need for the listed services they should immediately request help through their Line Manager or contact eap@tusla.ie.
  2. The Line Manager will then contact the EAP representative on duty.
  3. The Line Manager will complete the CISM services request form to initiate the services (see attached form) and forward to eap@tusla.ie
  4. If peer support or defusing services are needed, contact with Tusla peer support personnel should be initiated. If those personnel are involved in the incident then a local CISM team should be requested.
  5. If personnel indicate a possible need for services, complete the form and contact a CISM representative for confirmation. Please consult your CISM representative when judging the level of services needed for the personnel involved in the incident.
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