Researchers offer emergency workers a lifeline

02/14/05

New book examines their mental health crises

Their heroics at places like Ground Zero are well documented, but sometimes even emergency services workers need support after dealing with such crises, says Cheryl Regehr, a professor in the University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work and director of the Centre for Applied Social Research.

"For the most part, emergency services people are well equipped through training and personality style to deal with trauma," says Regehr, "but in most careers, an event comes along which really touches the person's soul."

Regehr and co-author and social worker Ted Bober explore the factors that contribute to this personal hell in their new book, In the Line of Fire: Trauma in the Emergency Services. Using their research and clinical experience, the two social workers explain the factors that contribute to trauma among emergency services professionals and the impact it has on the individuals and their families. The authors also offer guidance in designing intervention programs for distraught workers.

"The death of a child, either in an accident or at the hands of a parent, is the event that most commonly affects an emergency worker profoundly," says Regehr, who directed the crisis response team at Pearson Airport for 10 years. At such times, the police officer or firefighter loses the ability to focus on the task at hand, a skill that is a lifeline in a job where brushes with tragedy are the norm. "It's important in doing that kind of work to focus on the task itself, not on the meaning of the task," says Regehr. "The trouble is it's not always possible to focus on the task because certain events happen that they really connect to as people."

In the Line of Fire: Trauma in the Emergency Services is published by Oxford University Press.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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