Derrick Bird shot and killed 12 people and injured 11 more in Cumbria, over just a few short hours in June 2010. He then turned the gun on himself and was found dead by police in woodland in the town of Boot.
After reports of the first shootings mid-morning, a huge manhunt was launched by police, involving hundreds of officers. Local hospitals worked at capacity to treat victims and a critical incident was declared. The shootings took place in towns and villages spanning 15 miles of West Cumbria.
The incident is one of the worst mass killings the UK has seen and a significant number of police officers and staff received TRiM interventions afterwards.
TRiM is a peer support system for the early detection of those in psychological distress. The TRiM model bases itself on keeping employees functioning after traumatic events by providing support and education to those who require it. It works by training TRiM Practitioners throughout an organisation to spot signs of psychological distress in their colleagues that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Research carried out by King’s College London and published by Occupational Medicine, an international peer-reviewed journal which provides vital information for the promotion of workplace health and safety, looked at a number of the police officers and staff involved in the incident. The aim of the research was to examine the effects of TRiM interventions on those with high and low trauma exposure.
High trauma exposure included police staff who attended the murder scenes and saw bodies. Low trauma exposure included staff and officers who dealt with trauma-related telephone calls, for example control room operators.
The research – which was led by academic psychiatrist and leading UK expert in traumatic stress (including post-traumatic stress disorder), Professor Neil Greenberg – also compared those who had received a TRiM intervention and those who did not, following the incident.
Professor Greenberg said: “Organisations whose staff experience high levels of exposure to traumatic incidents are, unsurprisingly, more likely to witness high sickness absence following those events.
“The study into those officers and staff involved in the Cumbrian shootings shows that TRiM was able to substantially mitigate the effect of high trauma exposure.”
In the group that received TRiM interventions, there was no difference between high and low trauma exposure in terms of sickness absence.
In the non-TRiM group, sickness absence was about two and a half times more likely in the high exposure group than the low exposure group.
Professor Greenberg continued: “Further research shows that people who have been exposed to trauma are much more likely to talk to a colleague than a health professional in the first instance which is probably why TRiM works so well. Talking to colleagues, through the use of the TRiM system or otherwise, is a way of overcoming the stigma associated with seeking professional help for mental health problems.
“In the case of the Cumbrian shootings, the use of TRiM appeared to encourage staff to receive the support they required. The use of TRiM by Cumbria Police appears to have had a useful and significant benefit in terms of sickness absence management.”
A number of UK Police forces, as well as blue-light partners in the fire and ambulance service, now use TRiM to increase their resilience in the wake of potentially traumatic events. TRiM uses the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE)-recommended period of ‘watchful waiting’ before signposting those identified as needing support through an organisation’s existing mechanisms e.g. occupational health; welfare; counselling programmes.
Some of the comments from participants from UK police forces, who have undertaken TRiM by March on Stress training in 2013, include:
‘TRiM training gave me a thorough understanding of the practical implications of stress/trauma in a workplace environment.’
‘[TRiM] support is fundamental to better mental health. Exceptional delivery by trainers with a wealth of experience and kept it light hearted when required as can be a very deep subject.'
'Excellent trainers and materials. Very practically focused which makes it easy to see how it will transfer into the workplace.'
Click here to access the report.
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