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Impact of Crisis Intervention on the Mental Health Status of Emergency Responders Following the Berlin Terrorist Attack in 2016

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 July 2019

Ulrich Wesemann*
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, Bundeswehr Hospital, Berlin, Germany
Manuel Mahnke
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, Bundeswehr Hospital, Berlin, Germany Fire Department Berlin, Volunteer Fire Brigade Wedding, Berlin, Germany
Sarah Polk
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
Antje Bühler
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, Bundeswehr Hospital, Berlin, Germany
Gerd Willmund
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, Bundeswehr Hospital, Berlin, Germany
*
Correspondence and reprint requests to Ulrich Wesemann, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, Bundeswehr Hospital Berlin, Scharnhorststr. 13, 10115 Berlin, Germany (e-mail: uw@ptzbw.org; info@airsickness.de).

Abstract

Objective:

The most common crisis intervention used with German rescue workers is Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). Results regarding its effectiveness are inconsistent. A negative reinforcement of avoidance, due to premature termination of strong emotions during the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD), may explain this. The effectiveness of the CISD after terror attacks in Germany has not yet been investigated.

Methods:

All emergency responders deployed at the terror attack on Breitscheidplatz in Berlin were invited to take part in the study; 37 of the N = 55 participants had voluntarily participated in CISD; 18 had not.

Results:

Participants with CISD showed lower quality of life in psychological health and higher depressive symptomatology. Of these, females had lower quality of life in social relationships, whereas males showed more posttraumatic stress symptoms. Emergency responders from non-governmental organizations had higher phobic anxiety. Emergency medical technicians showed more somatic and depressive symptoms.

Conclusion:

There is no conclusive explanation for why rescue workers with CISD score worse on certain measures. It is possible that CISD has a harmful influence due to negative reinforcement, or that there was a selection effect. Further research differentiating occupational group, sex, and type of event is necessary.

Type
Brief Report
Copyright
© 2019 Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc.

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References

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