Skip to main content

Reactions of Police Officers to Body-Handling after a Major Disaster a Before-and-After Comparison

  • David A. Alexander (a1) and Andrew Wells (a2)

This study reports the results of an unusual opportunity to follow up a group of police officers who were involved in body-handling duties following the Piper Alpha disaster, and for whom there were available data from pre-disaster assessments. In addition, after these duties, the officers were compared with a matched control group of officers who had not been involved in such work. The comparisons failed to demonstrate high levels of post-traumatic distress or psychiatric morbidity. The results are interpreted in terms of issues such as the officers' own coping strategies, and major organisational and managerial factors.

Corresponding author
Medical School, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, Scotland AB9 2ZD
Hide All
Alexander, D. A. (1990) Psychological intervention for victims and helpers after disasters. British Journal of General Practice, 40, 345348.
Alexander, D. A. (1991) The Piper Alpha oil rig disaster. In The International Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndromes (eds Wilson, J. P. & Raphael, B.). New York: Plenum Press.
Alexander, D. A., Innes, G. & Walker, L. G. (1991) Police Stress at Work. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press (in press).
Aveline, M. O. & Fowlie, D. G. (1987) Surviving ejection from military aircraft: psychological reactions, modifying factors and intervention. Stress Medicine, 3, 1520.
Berah, E. F., Jones, H. J. & Valent, P. (1984) The experience of a mental health team involved in the early phase of a disaster. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 18, 354358.
Duckworth, D. H. (1986) Psychological problems arising from disaster work. Stress Medicine, 2, 315323.
Durham, T. W., McCammon, S. L. & Allison, E. J. (1985) The psychological impact of disaster on research personnel. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 14, 664668.
Eysenck, H. J. & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1975) Manual of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. Sevenoaks, Kent: Hodder and Stoughton.
Grundy, S. (1990) After the disaster. Police Review, 98, 234236.
Horowitz, M., Wilner, M. & Alvarez, W. (1979) Impact of Event Scale: a measure of subjective stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 41, 209218.
Ingham, J. (1981) Neurosis: disease or distress. In What is a Case? The Problem of Definition in Psychiatric Community Surveys (eds King, J. et al). London: Grant McIntyre.
Jones, D. R. (1985) Secondary disaster victims: the emotional effects of recovering and identifying human remains. American Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 303307.
Lazarus, R. S. & Folkman, S. (1984) Stress, Appraisal and Coping. New York: Springer.
Lieberman, M. A. (1982) The effects of social support on responses to stress. In Handbook of Stress (eds Goldberger, L. & Breznitz, L.). New York: Free Press.
McFarlane, A. C. (1986) Long-term psychiatric morbidity after a natural disaster. Medical Journal of Australia, 145, 561563.
McFarlane, A. C. (1988) Relationship between psychiatric impairment and a natural disaster: the role of distress. Psychological Medicine, 18, 129139.
McFarlane, A. C. (1989) The aetiology of post-traumatic morbidity: predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating factors. British Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 221228.
Michaelis, W. & Eysenck, H. J. (1971) The determination of personality inventory factor patterns and intercorrelations by changes in real-life motivation. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 118, 223234.
Raphael, B. (1986) When Disaster Strikes. New York: Hutchinson.
Shepherd, M. & Hodgkinson, P. E. (1990) The hidden victims of disaster: helper stress. Stress Medicine, 6, 2935.
Taylor, A. J. W. & Frazer, A. G. (1982) The stress of post-disaster body handling and victim identification. Journal of Human Stress, 8, 412.
Wilson, J. P. (1989) Trauma, Transformation and Healing: an Integrative Approach to Theory, Research and Post-Traumatic Therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Zigmond, A. S. & Snaith, R. P. (1983) The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 67, 361370.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Reactions of Police Officers to Body-Handling after a Major Disaster a Before-and-After Comparison

  • David A. Alexander (a1) and Andrew Wells (a2)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *