Background In the city of Helsinki, employees report thousands of threatening situations at work every year. Two thirds of victims typically cope on their own after a critical incident but one third needs help to manage. If not handled shortly, incidents may cause excessive stress or absence from work. Occupational health care organises debriefing after severe incidents but many minor incidents are left unhandled.
Description of the problem There was a need for mental first aid” at workplaces, so that personnel facing incidents could unload the mental burden right away. How to handle incidents quickly, during the workday, with a colleague? After the incident, the manager is usually responsible for examining the facts whereas colleagues could support with the mental process.
Results A short training based on Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) was organised for some employees and leaders. The training included e.g. lecture and discussion of safety culture at work and of human reactions during and after incidents. A discussion model of mental first aid (in Finnish hetipurku) and practical tools to support it were presented and practiced. According to the participants’ experience, the model turned out to be useful in many ways. Leaders felt that they got a valuable tool to handle different kinds of problematic situations at work. The model was also utilised within concerns about an organisational change.
Conclusions Mental first aid model was aimed to help work communities handle workplace incidents quickly on the spot. In addition to that, the model appeared to be more versatile instrument. It can be used to encourage discussing and solving challenging cases at work. It brings help easily available and strengthens work communities’ own competence to deal with stressful situations. Inspired by positive experiences, a further use of the model is developed and more support persons are trained.
- mental first aid
- workplace incident
- stress management
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