Processes for dealing with critical incidents, or potentially traumatizing events, have been in place in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) since the early 1990's. Originally there were only single service policies, but one of the key early goals of the ADF Mental Health Strategy has been the development of tri-service, multi-disciplinary policies in a number of areas, including how the ADF responds to these events.
In 2002 the ADF contracted the Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health to review the literature in the field and identify what was best practice for implantation in the ADF. A comprehensive consultation process involving mental health key stakeholders in Defence and the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, led to the development on the CIMHS framework.
This framework is more flexible catering better to the needs of commanders and ADF personnel while ensuring that best practice clinical interventions are provided where required. Key elements in the CIMHS framework are more comprehensive screening of individuals to determine the needs of individuals, a clear role for chaplains in dealing with the spiritual issues that are often a major part of dealing with these types of incidents (including the grief associated with the loss that is often involved), and an assertive follow up process that addresses one of the major deficits of the previous model.
Importantly, the framework includes an evaluation process in order to monitor the effectiveness of CIMHS and ensure continuous improvement of the process to ensure that Defence members always have available to them best practice in dealing with the possible mental health consequences of exposure to trauma.
One of the key components of the ADF Mental Health Strategy is the Critical Incident Mental Health Support (CIMHS). This program is comprised of three levels of CIMHS Training offered within Defence.
The CIMHS Peer/Provider and Professional course is a standardised three day program designed to provide mental health practitioners with the knowledge and skills to provide a first line response to potentially traumatising events and provide training in Defence’s CIMHS Model.
The CIMHS Refresher training is a one day update for CIMHS Mental Health Peers, Providers and Professionals who have previously completed the peer, provider or professional training.
CIMHS Train the Trainer (T4T) is a two day course that teaches mental health professionals and providers the necessary skills and knowledge needed to conduct the CIMHS Model to peer, provider or professionals.