Sunday, March 23, 2003

Stress team helps folks cope after tragedy

By David Eck
Enquirer contributor

Dealing with the emotional fallout of the death of a local firefighter falls to groups like the Southwest Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management Team.

Made up of about 200 volunteers - including police officers, firefighters and other care providers - the team cares for the emotional needs of first responders and their families, said Jim Edrington, president of the unit's board of trustees.

The unit, one of 33 in Ohio providing such services, has been called to assist Cincinnati firefighters coping with the Friday death of Oscar Armstrong III.

"Our function is to try to jump-start their coping mechanism so they can return to a normal life after a critical incident," Edrington said.

"A team coordinator goes in and does an assessment and advises command as to what might be needed for their personnel," Edrington said. "We go in as peers."

Typically team members ask basic questions and let responders talk about the incident, Edrington said.

"There are times when your coping skills are not what they should be," he said. "What you can't put in to words, you can't put to rest."

Stress management begins early in an incident and can carry on well beyond the funeral, said Linda King-Edrington, program manager for Southwest Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management Team.

"What we have done since 1993 is to ensure that all of the agencies that we provide services for receive a multiple-component crises intervention system of care, King-Edrington said.

"These folks are healthy, functional professionals who have been impacted by a critical incident. What we want for responders is that they can keep the joy of the profession. They can go home to their families healthy and then come back to work healthy."


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