Training platform for psychosocial support and primary prevention of stress-related diseases and trauma-related disorders for emergency forces
Emergency forces are repeatedly exposed to severe physical and psychological stress during operations. This can result in long-term psychological impairments that have a negative impact on their health and extend beyond their professional lives into their private lives. Protracted stress-related illnesses can occur as the result of mental stress. Specialists also call this post-traumatic stress disorder.
With the CHARLY e-learning training platform, emergency forces train how to successfully cope with psychological stress.
CHARLY training has a higher degree of efficiency than the methods known hitherto for deployment preparation or primary stress prevention (cf. Wesemann et.al., 2016). During a funded project in cooperation with Berlin's professional fire brigade, this development was also put into practice for the civilian personnel of the emergency and rescue services (BOS). The focus was on modernising the training platform, applications and language use in order to develop realistically simulated stress scenarios for the fire brigade and police.
The participants practise communication – so that they can seek psychosocial support for themselves and also to be able to assist someone else in a mental stress situation by offering the opportunity to talk.
This module addresses everyday stress, the differentiation from an acute stress reaction and the symptomatology of post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the module looks at the mental processes after experiencing traumatic stress, and the role of protective mental attitudes and appropriate personal beliefs in the prevention of stress-related disorders.
Self-calming methods include active skills which help to reduce the vegetative over-excitement in an acute stress situation. Participants practise and try out three easy-to-learn, standardised and pragmatic relaxation techniques.
Stress is induced in the training through a stress game and confrontation with a realistic deployment situation. After that, relaxation techniques are applied. This involves using physical monitoring to measure heart rate variability throughout the session. In this way the participants experience self-efficacy – they discover that through self-management they can control vegetative sensitivities in their body. The application of biofeedback is therefore an essential element of the CHARLY concept.
The training participants are guided through the system by a virtual coach. They experience their own stress reaction in an experiment. Case studies are used to illustrate the development and symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
They train selected stress management methods and test them in confrontation with realistically illustrated stress scenarios. Their effectiveness is immediately and objectively tested via the biofeedback interface.