Critical Incident Stress Management

“IT IS WORTH REMEMBERING THAT THE TIME OF GREATEST GAIN IN TERMS OF WISDOM AND INNER STRENGTH IS DURING THE TIME OF GREATEST DIFFICULTY.” - Dalai Lama

Introduction and Purpose

The Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program was developed as a collaborative effort between American Airlines (AA) and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants Employee Assistance Program (APFA EAP). The program assists Flight Attendants after experiencing a critical or traumatic workplace event. The goal of the program is to move the affected Flight Attendant(s) from a distressed state to emotional stability after the event.

The program utilizes key aspects of the Mitchell model under the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and is a solution-focused approach in resolving the possible after effects an event may impose. The program is:

  • Designed to help Flight Attendants cope with the adverse physiological and psychological stress that often occurs in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
  • Comprised of the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) members trained in the Mitchell model and are available 24/7.

Designed to foster resilience and growth by offering crisis intervention to the affected Flight Attendant(s).

Background

The CISM program recognizes that Flight Attendants have stress as a part of their daily work life and may not recognize when excessive stress can be potentially damaging. Though critical incident stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event, the medical and mental health community has acknowledged that in the aftermath of accidents and incidents, adverse physiological and psychological effects may be felt for days, months or, in some cases, years. If left unresolved, these effects can have harmful health and career implications. The specially trained CIRT members offer peer-to-peer crisis intervention based on an understanding of:

  • Stress Response
  • Stages of Grief
  • Individual Resilience
  • Psychological First Aid
  • Aviation and the Flight Attendant Population

Organizational Team

The daily operation of the CISM program is directed and managed by the members of the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) who play a key role in assessing the level of intervention needed and the development of an action plan designed to restore and build individual resilience. The CIRT members are the:

•    Manager of the Critical Response Team
•    APFA Coordinator of the Critical Response Team
•    APFA Team Base Coordinators (TBCs)
•    APFA Peer Support Volunteers (PSVs)

The program takes a team approach and utilizes the resources of multiple departments. Each department plays an equally important, yet unique, role in assisting the Flight Attendants affected by a traumatic event. The team is comprised of:

- Flight Service
- Daily Ops
- AA EAP
- APFA EAP, APFA Team Base Coordinators (TBCs), APFA Peer Support Volunteers (PSVs)
- APFA Base President and Vice President
- APFA Health and Safety Departments

The APFA EAP Department understands the importance of a Flight Attendant’s well-being in the hours and days following a traumatic event. The CIRT members are able to assess stress reactions,  address  immediate needs and identify resilience with Flight Attendants who have been involved in an event by  offering them the following support:

•    Peer To Peer Connection
•    Education and Guidance
•    Stress Response Recognition
•    Strength Identification
•    Community Resources

The CISM program is comprised of six components:

- 24-7 phone outreach via the 800 #
- Demobilization
- Defusing
- Debriefs
- Deployment
- Access to Community Resources When Needed

What to Expect After a Critical Incident

Traumatic events are unexpected and overwhelming. Whether or not there is an apparent physical injury, the event will most often cause emotional reactions. The hours and days after an event are an important time to draw on personal strengths to help cope with the stress. Remember, there is no “one way” to feel. Individuals react in their own way, and in their own time. It is important to understand that these normal responses to abnormal events can promote effective coping and recovery.

Common Initial and Protective Responses are:

- Shock and denial
- Sense of numbness
- Feelings disconnection and denial

Reactions in the Days Following an Event:

- Intense and Unpredictable Feelings
- Irritability
- Increased Anxiety
- Fatigue
- Moods Swings
- Pre-occupation with the Event
- Vivid Memories
- Sleep and Eating Disruption
- Worsening of Pre-existing Medical Condition
- Physical Symptoms May Include Headaches, Nausea, and Chest Pain

Having a Self-Care Plan is an Important Part in Recovering from a Traumatic Event. The Following is a List of Helpful Tips:

Within the first 24 hours of experiencing a traumatic event:

-- Structure your time and maintain a normal schedule
-- Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals and drink water
-- Stay off social media and avoid speculating about the event
-- Talk to people you trust
-- Do not make big life decisions
-- Get plenty of rest
-- Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
-- Call your CIRT team to talk

After the first 48 hours

-- Attend the critical incident stress debriefing if it is offered
-- Avoid speculating about the event and stay off social media
-- Maintain a hopeful outlook and visualize what you want not what you fear
-- Focus on circumstances you can control
-- Develop realistic goals and do something every day to move toward them
-- Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
--Make a confidential call to your CIRT team for assistance at 1.800.998.8194

Critical Incident Stress Debriefs (CISD)

CISDs are scheduled by Flight Service when the event meets certain criteria. Flight Service will contact you if a CISD is scheduled for your event. CISDs are scheduled within 24-72 hours following an event and are designed to lessen or avoid the potentially negative impact of a traumatic event. Attending a CISD is voluntary; however Flight Attendants are encouraged to attend for themselves and their co-workers.The CISD is a confidential, closed session and is co-lead by the AA EAP Representative and a APFA CIRT Representative.  Along with the co-leaders, only employees involved in the event are in attendance. Local Flight Service and Base Presidents may introduce themselves and offer their support just prior to or after the CISD though do not participate in the CISD.

Overcoming adversity helps you grow in meaningful ways and gives you a greater sense of personal strength and confidence as a Flight Attendant. We cannot control when a traumatic event happens, but we can use the event as an opportunity to become a more confident and self-assured person and Flight Attendant.

FOR THOSE TIMES WHEN AN EVENT OVERWHELMS YOUR ABILITY TO COPE, A LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL CAN HELP. TO RECEIVE A CONFIDENTIAL REFERRAL TO A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL, PLEASE CONTACT AA EAP AT (800) 555-8810 or THE APFA EAP AT (817) 540-0108 ext. 8701

APFA/EAP and TEAM BASE COORDINATOR CONTACTS
Lead Coordinator     Patty French     (847) 438-2954
Lead Coordinator     Susie Wallace   (203) 592-7014

BASE, TEAM BASE COORDINATORS, CONTACT INFO:
TBC-BOS/DCA/RDU: Litra Simms-Knight (410) 903-8710
TBC-CLT: Lisa Moon (704) 281-5600
TBC-DFW: Mark Arceneaux (214) 457-0257
TBC-LGA: Sonia Rodriguez (917) 796-9538
TBC-LAX: Patty Abruzzo (760) 468-3484
TBC-MIA: Joe Stanko (305) 761-6179
TBC-ORD/STL: Melinda Canaday (847) 274-3777
TBC-PHL: Bill Ibarra (917) 392-7756
TBC-PHL: Graham Thompson (215) 740-7406
TBC-PHX/SFO: Laura Lyman (480) 258-4132

OTHER INFORMATION & RESOURCES

For other information and resources, please visit the APFA EAP RESOURCE CENTER

1004 West Euless Boulevard
Euless, Texas 76040

Phone: (817) 540-0108
Fax: (817) 540-2077

 

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