Critical incidents are disturbing events, like a workplace injury or fatality, and can cause very strong emotional feelings and reactions. When a person witnesses something like this, it can affect his or her coping abilities either at the time of the event or later.
A person may experience emotional aftershocks – also known as stress reactions – after experiencing a disturbing event. This is normal and quite common. Emotional aftershocks may occur immediately after the event or hours or days later. They may last a few days, weeks, months or longer.
Common signs and symptoms of an emotional aftershock or stress reaction may include:
- chills or heavy sweating
- nausea and vomiting
- dizziness and fainting
- nightmares and sleeplessness
- being easily upset
- intense anger
- loss of, or increase in, appetite.
Find and use any resources available through your employer’s employee assistance program, faith-based services or your local community mental health services such as Klinic’s Critical Incident Reporting and Support Line in Winnipeg, available 24/7 by calling (204) 788-8222.
Within the first 24 to 48 hours after the incident, exercise moderately for short periods and then relax at regular intervals to ease some of the physical reactions.
Maintain your normal schedule as much as possible. Stay active.
Try not to think of yourself as ill or weak. You’re having a normal reaction to a critical incident.
Reach out and talk to people – they care.
Realize that those around you may also be experiencing stress.
Avoid numbing your pain with drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse may make it harder for you to deal with this event properly.
Spend time with others - don’t isolate yourself.
Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
Try to help your coworkers by asking how they are doing and then sharing your feelings with them.
Do things that make you happy.
Don’t make any big life changes during this time period but do make some daily decisions, which will give you a feeling of control over your life.
Get plenty of rest.
Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even if you don’t feel like it).
Don’t try to fight recurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks – they are normal and will likely decrease over time and become less painful.
If the critical incident has led to a physical or psychological injury, the WCB is there to help. To make a claim, you should report the injury to your employer, talk to your doctor or ask to be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and contact the WCB at 204-954-4100 or toll free at 1-855-954-4321.
Many people who experience a stress reaction recover completely. If the symptoms last more than four weeks, contact your doctor as you may be at risk of developing more serious difficulties such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
If a physician makes a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, you may be eligible for compensation benefits. For claim information, contact the WCB at 204-954-4100 or toll free at 1-855-954-4321.
This information was adapted from WorkSafeNB’s Critical Incident Information Sheet.