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uni'wissen 01(3)-2011_ENG

and other accidents as well as to firefighters and paramedics at public safety answering points, psychosocial counseling services, and hospitals in order to find people who are potentially trauma- tized. The questionnaire includes 122 questions in which the respondents provide information on the significance of the accident for their lives and on their life situation before and after the event: What fears and anxieties do they have? How close are they to family and friends? Do they feel well regarded and understood by others? The aim of the study is to determine what in- fluence factors like a person’s overall life situa- tion and thoughts can have on how well he or she copes with traumatic experiences, explains Bengel: “We are studying a person’s so-called protective and risk factors. Once we know what helps a person to overcome a traumatic experi- ence and what prevents them from overcoming it, we will be able to establish a reliable instru- ment for diagnosis and psychological care.” The risk factors include, for instance, the particular gravity of the event, a history of emotional insta- bility, or a sustained feeling of being threatened following the event. The protective factors, on the other hand, are things that make it easier for a person to overcome a traumatic event such as emotional support from family and friends or op- timistic prospects for the future. The researchers knew that it would be diffi- cult to find people who have been victims of a traumatic event for their study. For one thing, it is not mandatory to fill out the questionnaire at the cooperating institutions and organizations. In addition, people who have “other worries” af- ter experiencing an event of this kind are less willing to participate. Nevertheless, Becker is convinced that they will succeed in finding more than enough test subjects: “All of the question- naires will be filed anonymously, so nothing speaks against taking part in our study. Besides, the survey will help improve therapeutic care for the patients.” The main priority of the study is to improve psychological practice, and the point of the questionnaire is to find people who will later suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder or oth- er aftereffects and whose fate would not be dis- covered without a detailed survey. A Questionnaire for Reliable Prognoses The psychologists will begin by testing an ini- tial version of the questionnaire, explains Ben- gel: “We want to find out which questions are most effective and reliable for predicting poten- tial long-term psychological aftereffects.” In the end, they hope to have a short, standardized list of questions that also allows for reliable progno- ses. “If our approach works, we could have the questionnaire distributed directly by rescue teams at the scene of the accident or by doctors at the hospital,” says Becker. “This would give us the opportunity to greatly reduce the amount of people afflicted by psychological aftereffects in the long term.” “If our approach works, we could have the questionnaire distributed directly by ­rescue teams at the scene of the accident or by doctors at the hospital” 14 uni'wissen 03