Understanding Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

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Understanding Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) What is it and how is it saving the lives of our emergency service workers?

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What is CISM?

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is a comprehensive, integrated, systematic, and multi-component approach to managing traumatic stress in the aftermath of critical incidents, disasters, or other significant events. It’s designed to help individuals and groups mitigate the impact of traumatic experiences and accelerate recovery processes after such events.

The Importance of CISM

CISM is not a form of psychotherapy, but rather a method of helping those involved in a critical incident to share their experiences, vent emotions, learn about stress reactions and symptoms, and given further care if needed. It often involves interventions that may occur before, during, and after a traumatic event.

How CISM Helps Emergency Service Workers

Here’s how CISM can help emergency service workers:

Components of CISM

Pre-incident Training

This prepares emergency service workers for the potential psychological impact of their work. It helps them understand the normal reactions to abnormal events, which can reduce fear and confusion if a critical incident occurs.


After a large-scale traumatic event, a brief group meeting may be held to provide information, initial psychological support, and logistical needs.


This is a small, informal group discussion about the incident that occurs within hours of the event to address immediate needs and reactions.

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD)

This is a formal group process that takes place 1 to 10 days after the incident. It allows those involved to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the incident in a controlled and safe environment.

Individual Consultations

Some individuals may require one-on-one support or referral for further care.

Family and Significant Others Support

Families of emergency service workers can also be affected by critical incidents. Providing them with support can help the overall recovery process.

Follow-up and Referral

The CISM team can provide ongoing support and make referrals for further care if needed.

The Impact of Traumatic Events

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is based on the understanding that the impact of a traumatic event can be so powerful that it overwhelms an individual’s usual coping mechanisms. This can lead to a range of physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions that can interfere with the ability to function effectively.

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Read: What is Acute Stress Disorder?

Additional Benefits of CISM

Promotes Resilience and Recovery

By providing a structured environment for individuals to process their experiences, CISM helps to promote resilience and accelerate recovery. This can help emergency service workers return to their duties more quickly and effectively.

Prevents Chronic Stress-Related Conditions

Chronic stress can lead to a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. By helping individuals manage their stress in the aftermath of a critical incident, CISM can help prevent these conditions.

Improves Team Cohesion

By providing a space for teams to come together and support each other in the aftermath of a critical incident, CISM can help to improve team cohesion and morale. This can lead to improved performance and productivity.

Enhances Job Satisfaction

By demonstrating that the organization cares about its employees’ wellbeing, CISM can help to enhance job satisfaction and reduce turnover.

Reduces Absenteeism

By helping employees manage their stress and recover more quickly, CISM can help to reduce absenteeism and associated costs.

Read: Emergency Service PTSD

The Broader Organizational Approach

In addition to these benefits, it’s important to note that CISM should be part of a broader organizational approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of emergency service workers. This can include providing access to mental health services, promoting work-life balance, and fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.


At the end of the day, emergency service organizations can help their workers by standing side by side with them when they need them to the most, after a critical incident. If there is ever a time when office politics and budgets need not play a factor in the operations of the job, it’s when those who work the frontlines need as little red tape as possible. We all need to work harder, management and worker alike to ensure that those with a mental health injury or potential injury because of the job are well looked after, Not only is it the right and moral thing to do, but it will also help keep people on the job.

Understanding Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) What is it and how is it saving the lives of our emergency service workers? copyright – 2023

Dig Into Our Related Article: What is Acute Stress Disorder?

What is Acute Stress Disorder?

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What is acute stress disorder, and how is it different from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? The difference matters. 

In a world full of trending buzzwords and viral hashtags, it seems that every topic imaginable gets at least some attention. Good, bad, or otherwise, the internet has created supporters of even the most outlandish movements. 

Mental health, of course, is one of the big players on the buzzword bandwagon. With millions of us tweeting and posting relevant terms like self-care, mental health awareness, PTSD recovery, and so on, the mental health movement has gained traction – and for a good reason.

Yet, there is one mental health disorder that gets very little attention. In fact, it gets so little attention, I don’t recall ever seeing it splashed anywhere on any social media platform. 

What is this non-trending mental disorder, you ask? Well, the disorder to which I am referring is called acute stress disorder. It’s imperative that it becomes part of the mental illness vernacular. 

Learn More on Acute Stress Disorder Here:

As you will learn, acute stress disorder must be brought to the forefront of the mental illness internet disorders list. But more than that, it must be dealt with in a timely and professional manner.

Acute stress disorder is very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), presenting with many of the same symptoms. Symptoms like: (Finish Article)

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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