Psychological Health at Work

by Dr Christopher C Ridgeway

Crisis intervention

A crisis can be personal, such as a major unexpected breakdown or psychological health issue, or it can take the form of a group occurrence with potentially serious consequences for a number of your staff’s psychological health.

Personal crisis

Human beings are vulnerable. Sometimes, either one major event in a person’s life or a series of small events can cause a major psychological distress problem.

The major event could be a car crash, for example, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder, exhibited by anxiety, flashbacks, sleep blocks, major disturbance and, probably, immediate absence from work. Similar consequences might occur in the retail business, banking or insurance shops and offices when there is a robbery. At home, a crisis might arise from an unexpected death by suicide, a murder or a rape or major assault.

In all such cases, immediate action is required. If the individual’s doctor or a hospital is involved, then the appropriate action will be up to them. If the company is a member of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), they will take action. If no outside agency is involved, it may be necessary for management to organise a rapid de-briefing and psychological assessment and, where required, to make professional advice or suitable therapy available.

Group crisis

A group from the organisation might require crisis intervention if a major incident, such as a serious fire or explosion, the collapse of a building or a bomb incident, occurs within the company. In this case, management should have in place a crisis plan, which should detail who does what, who contacts whom, which outside agencies/professionals are to be involved and so on.

It is recommended that managers are trained on how to operate within the plan and employees are informed about the plan and what they are to do in a crisis. This can be done at induction, perhaps with short follow-up sessions at annual intervals.