The Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. Lessons from the first 6 years.
ABSTRACT A substantial body of data has been collected on survivors of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster over the first 6 years. These data show the psychological effects to be considerable, and although they appear to decrease over time, 6 years later there remains a substantial minority that remains highly distressed. Our research has also pointed to those factors that appear to be important in determining the severity and chronicity of symptoms. Levels of crisis support early on seem to be protective. Not everyone has access to supportive others, and these people would seem to be at increased risk of disturbance. But even if crisis support is potentially available from family and friends, not everyone is in a position to draw on these resources. Those individuals who possess negative attitudes toward emotional expression might be less likely to seek out support. Evidence would suggest that modifying such attitudes might be an important component of intervention. A further target for intervention would seem to be the causal attributions made by survivors. It was found that those who perceived the causes of events during the disaster as internal and controllable were at greatest risk of psychological disturbance. The data gathered in the wake of this disaster suggest that intervening early with respect to these three components (crisis support, attitude to emotional expression, and attributional style) is highly likely to mitigate against long-term distress.