Protecting the psychological wellbeing of staff exposed to disaster or emergency at work: a qualitative study

Published: Tuesday, 17 December 2019 08:38

A new academic paper, published in BMC Psychology, looks at employees’ perceptions of workplace support and help-seeking in the context of a disaster.

The paper, ‘Protecting the psychological wellbeing of staff exposed to disaster or emergency at work: a qualitative study’ was written by Samantha K. Brooks, Richard Amlôt, G. James Rubin and Neil Greenberg from the Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London, and Richard Amlôt from Public Health England.


Forty employees in England took part in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to extract recurring themes from the data.

Participants reported both positive and negative psychological outcomes of experiencing a disaster or emergency at work. Most had little training in how to prepare for, and cope with, the psychological impact. They perceived stigma around mental health and treatment for psychological issues which often made them reluctant to seek help. Many reported that the psychological support available in the workplace was insufficient and tended to be reactive rather than proactive. Interpersonal relationships at work were viewed as being important sources of support, particularly support from managers. Participants suggested that psychosocial training in the workplace could be beneficial in providing education about mental health, encouraging supportive workplace relationships, and developing listening skills and empathy.

Organizations can take steps to reduce the psychological impact of disasters on employees. This could be done through provision of training workshops incorporating mental health education to reduce stigma, and team-building exercises to encourage supportive workplace relationships.

Read the paper.