New firm to train in crisis aid

May 29, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

Their work with groups as diverse as fire department paramedics, Navy SEALS and missionaries returning from the carnage in Rwanda has earned Dr. Jeffrey T. Mitchell and Dr. George S. Everly reputations as leading authorities on the emotional trauma caused by violence.

After operating under the auspices of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, the nonprofit organization they launched in 1989, the two men have begun marketing their expertise to companies and foreign governments as a business called Mitchell-Everly Crisis Systems International.

And they've already signed their first contract, a $250,000 assignment to train about 20 psychologists and other mental health professionals in Kuwait who are struggling to deal with widespread trauma among Kuwaitis from the gulf war.

"Physically the country has been rebuilding very nicely, but emotionally there's a lot of upheaval," said Dr. Mitchell, an Ellicott City resident and an associate clinical professor in emergency health services at the University of Maryland. "They are encountering a lot of textbook post-traumatic stress syndrome."

The effects include deteriorating family relationships, decreased worker productivity and anxiety about security, he said.

Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Everly decided to launch the business because of the many requests they had received while operating the foundation from companies interested in training workers how to recognize and deal with the emotional trauma that can result from violence and tragedy.

"Unfortunately the world has become a far more violent place than it was just five years ago. This is really a demand-driven venture," said Dr. Everly, a Severna Park resident and chief psychologist at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.

The doctors, who have written two books on the subject of psycho-traumatology, expect much of their new work to come from outside the United States. They are talking with business owners and government administrators in Scandinavia, Africa, the Middle East and Bosnia-Herzegovina who have made inquiries about their programs, Dr. Everly said.

While the two expect to do much of the training themselves, they also plan to hire others in the field as needed.

"We are lucky to be part of an informal network of experts in this field, so we know just who to call if we need someone to help us on a job," Dr. Everly said.

The United States, he said, has the highest concentration of experts in the field of psycho-traumatology because of research done here when Vietnam War veterans began reporting depression, hostility and other emotional turmoil from the violence they had witnessed in battle.

Clients for the new venture, "could really be anyone in high-risk professions, from the ski and beach patrols to banks and post offices," Dr. Everly said.

"Whether it's a worker killed in a shootout or by a piece of machinery, it can affect everyone in the company, not only in how well they perform in the job but in their personal lives as well," Dr. Mitchell said.

The new business will not interrupt the nonprofit foundation's training of emergency and health care professionals, Dr. Everly said.

Since 1989, 350 "crisis teams" have been trained throughout the United States by the foundation. Those teams have assisted in numerous disasters, including the earthquake in Los Angeles earlier this year.

"Both of us really feel a duty to the people many of us look to the most in a moment of crisis," Dr. Everly said. "We don't intend to overlook them while doing this other work."

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