Critical Incident Stress – Do’s & Don’ts

Last week I introduced you to the Critical Incident Stress Management Team of the VPD. 

Today, I’m going to cover some things to consider if you have been involved in a critical incident.  The list of ‘do’s and don’ts’, compiled with the assistance of the ICISF, are suggestions only – all with the intention of educating those suffering from critical incident stress that what they are feeling is NORMAL. 

It should be noted that critical incidents are not experienced only by those in law enforcement.  Any event outside the range of normal human experience can happen to anyone, such as witnessing or being the victim of a violent crime.  The following is information we give our police officers after they have been involved in a critical incident, but can be applied to anyone:



  • Do expect the incident to bother you
  • Do maintain a good diet, cutting down on caffeine and sugar
  • Do exercise
  • Do remind yourself that post-trauma symptoms are normal
  • Do spend time with family and friends
  • Do get extra help, if necessary


  • Don’t drink alcohol excessively
  • Don’t use legal or illegal substances to numb post-trauma symptoms
  • Don’t withdraw from family and friends
  • Don’t think you are ‘crazy’
  • Don’t think you are the only one affected (if it was a large incident)
  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations for recovery


  • There are several reasons for the ‘do’s and don’ts’.  By eating right, you give your body the nourishment it needs to help you recover.  Exercise releases endorphins, making you feel better.  If you numb the symptoms by drinking too much or taking some other type of drug, you are only delaying the onset of symptoms and your ultimate recovery. 
  • You don’t have to start doing marathon sessions in the gym, or forgoing your usual glass of wine with dinner.  All you have to do is to remember to look after yourself, because you’ve just gone through a pretty horrible experience.


Hopefully, you will never have to put into practice the tips I’ve provided above.  Tomorrow, I’ll provide a list of symptoms that may be experienced after a critical incident – again, knowledge is power. 


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