CISM: Introduction

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) in Aviation

Flightcrews are selected and trained to be able to cope with stressfull situations. 
Nevertheless pilots and flight attendants sometimes are confronted with situations they find critical and strongly affecting, sometimes even life-threatening. The hydrostatic state of stress normally relieves after some days or weeks.

But if the experienced critical incident hasn’t been worked out properly, chronical discomforts can occur. They may lead to restrictions of the quality of life, loss of licence, and in extreme cases even to post traumatic stress disorder.

CISM covers all preventive and accompanying measures, supporting persons in handling the stress symptoms after critical incidents. It includes special trainings, followed by working structures like Crew Resource Management, development and use of checklists in emergencies, cares for holding special debriefings after critical incidents and ensures aftercare measures.

An essential part is a well structured guide for conversation after critical incidents (CIS-Debriefing) developed by the american psychologists Prof. Dr. Jeffrey T. Mitchell and Prof. Dr. George Everly. These are conducted by especially trained pilots, flight attendents and psychological professionals.

CISM-measures are no therapy, but are only there to support healthy persons with normal reactions to abnormal, critical situations.
CISM is related to psychotherapy as physical First Aid is to surgery. Thus, crisis intervention is sometimes called “emotional first aid”.