Acute stress symptoms, dissociation, and depression among rescue personnel 24 hours after the Bet-Yehoshua train crash: The effects of exposure to dead bodies

Menachem Ben-Ezra, Yuval Palgi, Nir Essar, Hilik Sofer, Yeela Haber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: The immediate impact of exposure to severe wounds, dead bodies, and immediate threat to life has been understudied. Most studies focus on the acute stress disorder and/or post-traumatic stress disorder phases in order to assess rescue personnel's symptomatology, and tend to neglect the immediate exposure to elements of the disaster.Hypothesis: Rescue personnel who had a history of previous exposure to dead bodies would exhibit higher levels of acute stress symptoms, dissociation, and depressive symptoms within the 24 hours following a traumatic event.Methods: Twenty-three rescue personnel participated in the search and excavation of dead and mutilated bodies following the Bet-Yehoshua train crash in Israel.The rescue personnel group was divided based on previous exposure to dead bodies. Each participant completed a demographic questionnaire, which included a question on perceived threat to life, the impact of event scale revised, the dissociative experience scale, and the center of epidemiologic studies depression questionnaire. Student's t-tests, along with multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) were conducted in order to learn which factors are related to psychiatric symptomatology following the immediate exposure to such stressors.Results: Among rescue personnel, those with previous exposure to dead bodies did not differ in their levels of acute stress symptoms, dissociation, and depressive symptoms from those who were not previously exposed to dead bodies.Conclusions: These results may suggest the possibility that the impact of exposure to dead bodies does not emerge in the acute stress reactions (ASR) phase (up to 24 hours after the event), but later when people have time to process the trauma. Another possibility is that the rescue coping mechanisms of detachment may serve as a buffer for the horrific sights encountered during the ASR period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-465
Number of pages5
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Volume23
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Keywords

  • Israel
  • domestic disaster
  • exposure to dead bodies
  • post-traumatic symptoms
  • rescue personnel

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