Psychological Trauma and PTSD

Date: 21.01.2016     Last updated: 30.06.2017 at 16.11
A guide to dealing with psychological trauma or a traumatic event where there is exposure to a violent situation, personal life threatening danger or fear of death. This guide is for workers whose work can involve exposure to such situations especially when covering events such as war, disasters and civil unrest.

What Can Go Wrong?

  • After experiencing a traumatic event it is natural to feel upset, tearful, angry, or sad and have difficulty with sleeping.
  • Most people, in time, get over such bad experiences with the passage of time, and it is important that you recognise that this is an important part of the thought and emotional process around the incident to allow you to progress to resolution.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is rare, but can occur when these early symptoms do not resolve and become entrenched. Symptoms usually appear within 6 months of the traumatic event.
  • People can feel depressed, anxious, grief stricken, guilty and angry after a traumatic experience and have symptoms of intrusive flashbacks to the event and nightmares, avoidance and distraction from the event or being on guard all the time – being jumpy and hyper vigilant.
  • If your symptoms do not subside over time, or get worse, then at that point it is very important to get help.

Legal/BBC Requirements

  • There are no specific legal requirements to draw to your attention; you must still apply the control measures that are relevant to your activity

Control Measures


  • It is always better to be prepared. For those likely to be involved in situations which present significant psychological risks (e.g. witnessing traumatic events or seeing film footage showing these), consider arranging for your team to have a trauma awareness briefing from a network of BBC TRiM Advisers (see Useful Documents) - they can help your team to recognise the signs and symptoms of trauma, techniques for reducing its effects and explain what support is available. 

After an incident

  • Monitor your colleagues for signs that they have been affected by a traumatic event.
  • Don’t bottle things up in the early stages and, instead, talk to others involved or other colleagues who understand the work that you do.
  • There are a small number of Trauma Network individuals in certain areas who are trained to make contact with you in the early stages after a traumatic event. They are not counsellors, but provide a touch point for contact and support and pointing you in the direction of help if required.
  • You should talk to your manager at the earliest opportunity if you are experiencing problems after a traumatic event or have concerns. Employees can also access counselling services through the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)(see Recommended Links (Gateaway)) or be referred to Occupational Health by your manager. Whilst the EAP is an employee benefit, it can be made available to freelancers under certain circumstances (contact HR for advice).
  • Or alternatively talk to your own GP/doctor if you continue to feel symptoms after the event and they aren’t resolving.

Division Specific Issues

  • No Division specific issues

FAQs/Did You Know?

  • It is good to talk to colleagues initially, but if your symptoms carry on or get worse or you are worrying unduly, then at that point you should seek professional advice.
  • You will know when you’ve got over a traumatic experience when you can think about it without distress, with no intrusion of the thoughts at inappropriate times, and you do not feel the need to be constantly vigilant.
  • At present evidence of effective PTSD treatment exists for psychotherapy, behaviour therapy, EMDR and antidepressants.

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