The Swiss government has launched a series of courses to train emergency service employees as well as airport personnel and volunteers, to give psychological support and counselling to trauma victims and their families.
The Federal Department for Civil Protection decided to run the training programme to deal with the problems faced by hundreds of Swiss citizens who have been involved in serious accidents and disasters, such as the Swissair commuter plane which crashed outside Zurich in early 2000.
The courses are run with the help of the Federation of Swiss Psychologists. This year, there are three scheduled basic training sessions with a total of 48 course participants. A further two sessions are already pencilled in for the future.
Daniel Rebetez, head of the section of the civil protection department in charge of the psychological programme, said the courses would focus on three main areas.
Three training areas
The first area will teach people how to deal with an emergency situation in terms of deciding what needs to be done and then coordinating a plan to get it done as quickly as possible.
The second area focuses on caring for victims at the scenes of the disaster and lastly the third area looks at the treatment and counselling of victims who need psychological support in the months following the accident or disaster.
Rebetez adds that the course participants will take a refresher course every two years with many coming back for advanced courses in the interim.
In the future the government hopes to run four basic training courses each year as well as two advanced sessions. The decision to run the course follows the success of a pilot scheme in 2000.
Various private organisations are also following the government's lead with Swissair already having experts to deal with air disasters and the Swiss Federal Railways planning a similar scheme to help rail accident victims.
In a bid to coordinate efforts and exchange know-how on the subject of psychological trauma support, there will be a conference in Schwarzenburg in canton Bern in November. It's hoped that delegates will hammer out the bare bones of an emergency psychological help network.
swissinfo with agencies