Acute Crisis – Protecting the brain’s alarm centre

(This story is quoted from an article on acute crisis intervention by psychologist Atle Dyregrov, head of the Center for Crisis Psychology in Bergen, Norway (Monthly Review for General Practitioners 2011; 89 (11):783-92)).

A cable car (gondola) which carries people up and down from a 643 m high mountain in Bergen had a technical error which meant that the line had to be manually operated from the base station via walkie-talkie communication. Due to a misunderstanding, the operator at the base station caused the gondola to depart from the upper station while the door was open.

The operator at the top station tried to throw himself into the gondola but was stuck between the gondola and a wall and was pressed against a window at the side. The poweful pressure brought the entire window and the man eventually to fall into the gondola. He was seriously injured and bled heavily.

It was a very shocking event for children and adults already in the gondola. Simultaneously, the gondola swung violently back and forth with a large open section in the side towards the rock 15-20 m below. It took 20 minutes before they were safe.

Four days later the psychologist spoke with four of the children (who were 9-15 years old) along with their two mothers. None of the children experienced flashbacks about the accident at this time, which is unusual after such an intense experience. During the conversation with the psychologist the children described what they had done after they came out of the gondola. One of them had suggested that after such a bad experience they ought to do something good. So they went straight home and looked at cartoons for some hours.

Read more here about what wise things to do in he first 6 hours after an acute crisis.