Post-Traumatic Stress in Survivors of an Airplane Crash-Landing: A Clinical and Exploratory Research Intervention

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Post-traumatic stress in 30 male survivors of an airplane crash-landing was studied through interviews and questionnaires based on a nonpathological model of preventive psychological intervention and monitoring. Five questionnaires were given initially 12 days after the event and repeated at 2, 5, 10, and 12 months. Two of the brief measures were given weekly from 2 to 8 weeks after the event. As a group, the survivors experienced high levels of stress initially, which decreased rapidly and leveled off over time. There was, however, significant variability among individuals in this seemingly homogeneous group of college basketball players and supportive personnel in their experience of stress to the same traumatic event. There was also a marked contrast between group questionnaire results and individual verbal descriptions of their reaction to an unrelated, fatal airplane crash on the campus of the survivors 1 month after their own crash-landing. Questionnaire data are presented descriptively and discussed in relation to other normative data in the literature and to the methods of observation in this study. Recommendations are offered for professionals attempting this type of field study.