Answers to frequently asked questions concerning CISM

Since 1994  the Mayday Foundation (Stiftung Mayday) has supported crew members in distress. Day  and night specially trained volunteers are available to assist with the work of the Foundation. This group is comprised of professional and private pilots, flight attendants, emergency medical personnel, mental health professionals and psychologists.

The intensive cooperation, the exchange of experiences and information with international CISM-teams has led to a worldwide network of similar skilled people.

Mayday Foundation forms part of a world-wide network with international CISM-teams through intensive cooperation, information exchange and sharing experiences.

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions concerning our CISM work.

What does CISM mean?

CISM is a short for Critical Incident Stress Management, a method developed by the American ICISF (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc.) to support rescue teams after critical incidents. Their training is approved by the University of Baltimore, USA, and thus certifies all our CISM Team Members.
Stiftung Mayday has introduced CISM to aviation in Germany.

CISM is one part of the Stiftung Mayday peer support programs.

Who is a Peer?

A Peer in the context of a support program is a person that fulfills the same criteria as the person to be taken care of (e.g. language, profession, culture) or is in the same life situation. The Mayday Foundation has some 300 peers of all areas of aviation who are trained in CISM support.

What are the main features which define a “Critical Incident”?

The life and/ or physical safety of a person in close proximity is or seems to be threatened. The individual’s perception of the incident is more significant than the actual incident itself. A critical incident usually occurs unexpectedly and often confronts the person concerned with feelings of helplessness.


Since 1994 the Mayday Foundation (Stiftung Mayday) has supported crew members in distress. Day and night specially trained volunteers are available to assist with the work of the Foundation. This group is comprised of professional and private pilots, flight attendants, emergency medical personnel, mental health professionals and psychologists.

The intensive cooperation, the sharing of experiences and information with international Support Teams has led to a worldwide network of similarly skilled people.

Mayday Foundation is part of this network.

What is the difference between CISM and the Mayday Foundations Mayday Model?

The Mayday Foundation supports current or former flight license holders and their next-of-kin who are in distress. This support is often short term and sometimes may last for years and covers a wide range of situations and circumstances. It is provided by our Mayday-Model trained staff.

CISM support also is part of the support work of the Foundation. But it is limited to the immediate support after critical incidents or accidents. CISM support is offered to ALL crew members involved.

Which “critical incidents” require a CISM-team?

Common reasons for calling the CISM hotline are: any situation which may cause significant mental distress and is perceived as threatening the psychic or physical integrity of a person. Examples are: on-board medical emergencies, critical diversions, unruly passengers, smoke and fire, extensive system losses, problems due to severe weather conditions, hijacking and terrorist attacks, natural disasters, emotional pressure due to an emergency landing, near miss, etc.
It is important to note that the main reason to define an incident Critical is the individual perception of the involved person.

What happens when someone contacts you via the contact form or the 24/7-Voice Mail System of the Mayday Foundation?

The contact form and a voice mail information system are switched on immediately and seek a CISM-Coordinator who is specifically trained and highly experienced. This Coordinator will call back and organize all necessary supporting steps.

What happens if someone calls the CISM-Team on behalf of someone else?

In general we expect that the affected person itself will contact the CISM-Team. If this is not the case, the referring person is asked to arrange a personal introduction between the CISM-Team-Member and the person affected as soon as possible.

What is the call-back response time? If it takes longer, why is that?

All CISM-Team-Members are volunteers. The goal for the maximum time for a call-back is 6 hours. However the average call-back time is less than 1 hour. A response time of six hours is an uncommonly rare occurrence (less than 0.4% of all responses).

Isn’t a “maximum of 6 hours” too long to wait?

No. Emotional processing takes time, so there is no need for an immediate rapid intervention directly after an incident. Usually, a comprehensive “operational debriefing” among persons affected by the incident facilitates a thorough mental review of what had happened. The CISM care then intensifies this process as part of its work and is a form of “psychological first aid”, activating and encouraging the individual’s own healing process. To mentally handle a critical incident it requires discreet and adequate care. CISM provides very differentiated, well structured, and efficient mental and emotional care.

What are the different CISM strategies which are used?

  • Teaching
  • Operational Debriefing
  • Individual Interview (SAFER-R), in person or over the phone
  • Defusing
  • CMB-Crisis Management Briefing
  • Demobilisation
  • CIS-Debriefing
  • Family-Care
  • Referral

What is the difference between an “Operational Debriefing” and a "CIS-Debriefing"?

  • An “Operational Debriefing” is conducted by the Commander, involves the entire crew and takes place immediately after the incident. The process takes about 15 minutes and is limited to reviewing the facts and perceptions. The intention is to assess whether further CISM-care is necessary.
  • A “CIS-Debriefing” generally takes place approximately 72 hours or even later after the incident. The process is facilitated by trained CISM-Team members, who are not part of the crew involved in the incident, and takes between 2 up to 3.5 hours. This process is more comprehensive and addresses facts and perceptions, as well as individual reactions and shows ways to cope and heal.

What CISM-measures can be taken by a crewmember involved in an incident?

Generally none other than providing general information (e.g. during an “Operational Debriefing”). Apart from this a CISM-Team member shall never act within the context of his/her own crew.

Are there CISM-Teams on stand-by, for example at certain airports, airfields or airshows?

No, the high cost of such a service makes this impossible.

In the event an incident is reported, all CISM-Team members are alerted via an internet based system and are appointed during their free-time.

What crews will be attended to at the airport?

Subject to the availability of a CISM-Team member and airport accessability for CISM Team members, every crew member requesting help will receive such assistance.

Who will be informed about those measures?

All personal information is bound to professional confidentiality. No CISM Team member will provide information about any circumstances concerning a crew member.

How about labor-law consequences ?

The focus of every CISM-measure is to address the mental and emotional impact of a critical incident and is subject to professional confidentiality. No labor-law questions are discussed during any CISM-measure.

When do CISM-teams sign someone off sick?


CISM supports healthy people, who are presenting normal, yet unanticipated responses, to an abnormal incident. As the people concerned show normal reactions of a healthy person, no diagnosis of illness is required. However, it may make sense to take a short break before the next flight to allow the reactions on the stressful situation to dissipate. At the request of the person concerned, the CISM-Team may recommend this to the employer.

There is no legal entitlement for extra days off after a critical incident.

Does a legal right exist to call upon CISM?

European Airlines (AOC- Holders of an Air Operator Certificate) are required to provide peer support after a critical incident or accident. To ensure the necessary confidentiality, many airlines have a contract with HF Human Factor GmbH and co-operate with the independent Mayday Foundation.

What action is taken, if something happens abroad?

There will always be an initial contact with the crew, and a first short teaching advice is given, often via the telephone. Our main support is provided after the return to home base.

Is there a national and/or international CISM-network?

Yes, CISM-Teams operate worldwide, forming an extensive international network. Nationally, such teams may be known by other names, e.g. Crisis Intervention Team, Stress Recovery after Critical Incidents Team, Emergency Pastoral Care etc. If and when necessary the Mayday Foundation collaborates with these institutions to address critical incidents. Internationally we co-operate with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), especially with their European part E-CISM, but also with CISM-teams of other airlines and/or their labor unions (e.g. TWU-Transport Workers Union, ALPA-Airline Pilots Association) and all pilot associations being interested.

Do CISM-Teams only support airline-crews?

No. Mayday Foundation supports all pilots and aircrew affected by a critical incident.

Do you support non-members of the Mayday Foundation as well?


Does Mayday Foundation only support German citizens?

No. As part of a world-wide network, we endeavor to provide a trained CISM-Team comprised of different cultural and/or linguistic backgrounds. Our constitution specifically allows this.

What happens to my personal data?

Personal data are bound by confidentiality and are restricted to the CISM-Team of Stiftung Mayday for the duration of the support. Three months later no one else than the Clinical Director (CD) of the CISM-Team holds access of these individual data. As a professional psychologist the CD is bound to professional discretion. The CD decides when these data are made anonymous by clearing them out into a general statistic without any possible reference to an individual person.
Stiftung Mayday has a specific trained adviser for data protection who also serves as contact for any report in matters of deficiencies.

If required, will CISM care over a longer period?

Yes and No.

No because the Foundation’s CISM-Teams is trained and specialized to provide only “Psychological First Aid” shortly after the critical incident happened. As a result we are able to reduce the long-term after-effects of severe critical incidents from 4% to 0.8%.
The remaining 0.8% will need a long-term therapy and are referred to a professional specialist. So: Yes, because the Foundation makes sure that the person concerned will receive appropriate support for as long as necessary.

What if the incident happened some time ago?

In a private confidential conversation it will be checked with the person concerned if therapeutic measures will help to overcome the aftereffects. If so, we refer to a professional specialist for treatment.

How often does the support team operate?

Presently our support team is requested to assist about six to seven times per week (2023).

How much is a CISM call?

It is only the notification call.
The call back is paid for by Stiftung Mayday.

How much does a CISM-support cost?

The costs for a CISM-support for airline employees is borne by the participating airlines, who own a contract with HF Human Factor GmbH.
All other CISM-support is borne by the Mayday Foundation and free of charge for the person affected.

All CISM-Team members work on an honorary basis. The Foundation refunds expenses such as transportation and telephone costs.

Who finances the CISM-work?

The costs for a CISM-support for airline employees of participating airlines are payed by the airline which has a contract wth HF Human Factor GmbH. All other costs involving aviation in general, quality control, the international network, the supervision of the members and the running costs of the Foundation are “in principle” financed by donations. “In principle” because all the work is done by volunteers, spending much of their free time and energy on the “Mayday Foundation Project”. Their dedication is worth significantly more than the Foundation spends on expenses involved with providing support.

Where do the team members come from, how are they selected?

All members of the CISM-Team are volunteers and come from all domains of active aviation. After an initial interview with a Clinical Director of the CISM-Team, all candidates attend a practise oriented basic training to demonstrate aptitude.

What training is provided to the team-members?

All CISM-Team members are required to participate in a three-day basic training. Thereafter they attend a biennial two-day refresher. All training meets the criteria of the ICISF international standard and beyond.

What does the Mayday Foundation training cost?

The training costs are paid by the participating airlines and organizations. The costs depend on venue, number of participants and instructors. The Foundation does not offer training to the “free market” but refers to experienced ICISF-licensed instructors, who train on their own account.

Whom can I refer to, if I have further questions?

Stiftung Mayday

Email: info@stiftung-mayday.de

For questions concerning CISM addressed to a CISM-Coordinator please use our contact form or our 24/7 voice mail: +49 (0) 151 2240 7703

As soon as possible one of our CISM coordinators will call you back.