with Berthold Gersons, PR, Mirjam Nijdam, MSC, Merle Friedman, PhD, Alexander McFarlane, MD
This PMI will focus on ways to prevent psychological distress in people who are confronted with an ongoing life-threatening situation. Our guideline for discussing this topic will be recent research on terrorist threats and close protection in politicians in the Netherlands. Following two political murders in the Netherlands, politicians under terrorist threat have been confronted with increasingly stringent security measures. Both the life threat in itself and the protective measures that are taken can influence the lives of the politicians being protected, especially if the threat level requires that close protection is introduced. Based on well-established theories of stress, trauma and coping, the psychosocial effects of terrorist threat and protection are described. Interviews with politicians show that they can suffer from symptoms, some of which bear a resemblance to the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, the threat and close protection may disrupt their daily functioning and that of their family and social environment. Some politicians will be more cautious to express their opinion on sensitive topics, while others may have the tendency to express stronger opinions on a specific issue. On the basis of the results of this study, Dutch politicians under threat are currently advised by mental health professionals, aimed at preventing distress and coping in the best possible way with their specific situation. This PMI will offer relevant perspectives for mental health professionals dealing with people who are in a situation of ongoing life threat. Emphasis will also be placed on recognizing distress in protection officers and other professionals whose work situation is characterized by ongoing threatening events. Also, the new role of the mental health professional as an adviser instead of a therapist will be focused on. Illustrative case examples will be presented and possible approaches for giving advice will be discussed.
Potential for Participant Distress: This presentation includes pictures of victims of terrorist attacks that may be distressing to some participants.