Who is responsible for psychosocial support (PSS)?
At the Headquarters level we have shared responsibility:
Organization of PSS (operational part): Monika Stickler
Chief psychologist (Expert’s part): Barbara Juen
Contact for PSS
Phone - Mobile: +43 664 823 48 68
Fax: +43 (0)512 507 2835
Phone: +43 1 58900 134
Website of the national society or PSS
Field of psychosocial support at the moment
The current model of Psychosocial Acute Support within the Austrian Red Cross was first piloted in the Tyrolean Branch during the avalanches in Galtür 1999 and then adopted in the other Branches The regional branches of the Austrian Red Cross (Tyrol, 1999 and Upper Austria, 2000) have been the first step in developing a scientific and organisational structure.
These developments went parallel to several tragic incidents (Kaprun 2000, floods 2002). These disasters motivated to develop immediate support for people affected on a federal level, based on theoretical concepts.
Therefore the has developed a general framework covering all Red Cross branches and both fields of activities, the peer system for the own staff and the psycho-social support for victims. In January 2003 the Red Cross framework and the guidelines for psycho-social acute care have been homogenised in order to avoid parallelism. Teams are mostly made up of volunteers and support other relief organisations.
As mentioned above, appropriate structures have been established by the Austrian Red Cross so that organisations can provide prompt psychosocial support. Post trauma support is well established and serves amongst other reasons, to avoid more serious long term affects to the health of individuals.
Homogenous standards have been established on a national level, so that different systems can be compatible in the case of disasters, in areas such as: training, organisational structures, intervention indicators. Over the years an information campaign has taken place along with enlarging emergency response teams.
Since 2005 Austrian Red Cross is running a telephone counselling line, called “Ö3 Kummernummer”, on a daily basis together with the most common Austrian radio station, “Hitradio Ö3” (as part of the public service broadcasting of Austria).
Until the end of 2006 Austrian Red Cross has trained about 900 volunteers and paid staff in psychosocial aftercare, approx. 490 peers to support our own helpers and 150 volunteers in telephone counselling for providing the Ö3 Kummernummer.
How is the service provided?
General principle: The decision to deploy a psycho-social support team does not depend on the number of those affected, but on the degree of possible traumatisation. The services are available free of charge to all residents.
The objective of this support is the recovery of the capacity to act and the support in the mourning process. The affected person needs to be cared for and accompanied in his/her coping with this traumatic situation. Moreover, it is envisaged to make the social network of the person (e.g. friends, neighbours, etc.) available. Should the psycho-social team-member detect that further professional therapeutic or psychiatric interventions are needed he is called upon organising this. In this respect the there is a cooperation with professional organisations.
The mission does not cover only the classical support dialogue but also the creation of the requested structure. Through practical assistance and evaluation of the event the person concerned gets a clearer picture of the next steps to be taken. In this respect it is most important to reactivate the self-coping measures of the person in need. The psycho-social team member has to commit himself to respect the obligation of secrecy.
In scientific terms the psycho-social support has to be understood as a prevention measure. Traumatic events can create post-traumatic stress disorder which result in further health risks and damage. Therefore the system acts in an area which is a central demand of pre-clinical emergency medicine and has therefore to be understood as an extended field of activity of the ambulance and rescue service. The deployment of psycho-social support has to be launched immediately after the event, which means already within the rescue operation itself and is therefore an emergency intervention and not a therapy. In other words it closes the gap between the event itself and the possibly necessary psychological support measures long after the event.
The detailed goals of the support:
- Emotional stabilisation
- Restoring an ability to act
- Providing information and support for family members who were not directly involved in the event.
- Networking with institutions that offer psycho-social follow-up care.
- Reduction of the acute stress
- Prevention of secondary illnesses
Members of psycho-social support teams provide support during the first few hours after an unusually critical stressful experience by
- taking time to listen
- responding to momentary needs
- assisting people affected, other people involved and survivors to express their feelings and
- accept them as a normal response to an abnormal event
- helping people affected, other people involved and survivors to put the incomprehensible
- event in words and place it in some kind of context
- providing support when those who have suffered a bereavement bid farewell to the deceased
When does the Crisis Intervention team provide care?
- After traumatic events in the family setting or in the public - for victims or relatives or witnesses (e.g. death by illness, injury or suicide of a beloved)
- disasters in cooperation with the local authorities
- Support to persons who lost the basics of their lives
- Support to people affected by natural and man-made disasters and large accidents
Recent emergencies and disasters in Austria, where psycho-social support was needed:
- 1998: Lassing (Province Styria) | Mine accident
- 1999: Galtür, Valzur (Province Tyrol) | Avalanche
- 1999: Tauerntunnel (Province Salzburg) | Road tunnel fire
- 1999: Bergisel / Innsbruck (Province Tyrol) | Crowd panic in a stadium
- 2000: Kaprun (Province Salzburg) | Fire in a funicular train
- 2002: Province Upper Austria, Province Lower Austria | Floods
- 2005: Province Tyrol, Province Vorarlberg | Floods
- 2005: South East Asia | Tsunami
- 2006: Sölden (Province Tyrol) | Cable car/helicopter accident
- 2006: Province Upper Austria | Floods