Critical incidents are powerful events that temporarily overwhelm an individual's or a group's ability to function normally. Critical incidents can stimulate psychological growth or cause significant psychological damage. Examples of critical incidents include workplace deaths, suicide of a colleague, life-threatening on-the-job injuries, injuries or deaths to children, disasters, injuries or deaths to loved ones, violence, accidents, military combat, complicated and dangerous rescues, and events with elevated personal threat.

Critical incidents are viewed as horrible, terrible, awful, grotesque, overwhelming, frightening, threatening, or disgusting. They generate a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms. Most people recover rapidly after a critical incident and do not require formal psychological intervention. If not managed carefully, however, a critical incident can become the source of long-lasting conditions such as substance abuse, ...

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