The influence of indirect collective trauma on first responders' alcohol use

Previous research has suggested increased risk for negative outcomes such as increased alcohol use among first responders who are involved with the response to a community disaster; however it is not clear how indirect exposure to a critical incident impacts first responders. This work examined the impact of secondary or indirect trauma on changes in alcohol use among urban firefighters who were not directly involved in the response to a large scale community-level disaster. Firefighters enrolled in larger trial of health outcomes whose interview period coincided with the crash of a commercial airplane were the basis for the current report. Aggregate level data on changes in alcohol consumption for these firefighters were examined pre- and post-incident. There was a significant increase in alcohol use following the critical incident. This increase did not occur immediately; it was observed within several days and peaked about 8 days post-incident. Post-hoc analyses revealed that the increased alcohol consumption persisted for several months, finally returning to pre-incident levels by 8 months post-incident. Indirect trauma effects, likely operationalized in part through the "brotherhood" of the firefighters, clearly placed firefighters at risk for negative outcomes following a disaster. Intervention/prevention efforts aimed at distress reduction among first responders should not solely focus on responders with direct involvement in a disaster.

Source : Homish GG, Frazer BS, Carey MG. The influence of indirect collective trauma on first responders' alcohol use, Int. J. Emerg. Ment. Health, 2012, 14(1), p. 21-28.

 

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