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Diving Hyperb Med. 2008 Mar;38(1):54.

NHMRC guidelines for clinical practice for ASD and PTSD.

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  • 1Clinical Psychologist, Vancouver BC, Canada, E-mail:


Dear Editor, Recently I described the case of a scuba instructor suffering from acute stress disorder (ASD), a type of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), following the death of one of her students. The treatment described was a combination of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) exposure based exercises. As it happens, in August the Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health published Australian clinical practice guidelines for ASD and PTSD. These have been endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The treatment described in the diver injury case is consistent with these guidelines. The NHMRC guidelines suggest that immediately following a traumatic episode (e.g., diver death or serious injury) the most helpful response is to offer psychological first aid. This includes providing information on traumatic stress reactions, encouraging self care and using available social support. It is recommended that the medical practitioner monitor the patient, watching for improvement, plateau or deterioration, and be ready to offer assistance or appropriate referral if needed. The guidelines recommend the use of trauma-focused psychological therapy as the first-line intervention for ASD and PTSD. EMDR, with in vivo exposure included, and CBT are considered the most effective treatments. If medication is required, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor antidepressants are considered the best choice. For the benefit and convenience of patients and practitioners, the NHMRC guidelines and a comprehensive set of information guides on ASD and PTSD are available online as pdf file downloads at An update in Medical Journal of Australia provides traumatic stress information for medical practitioners including screening questions that can be used to identify patients suffering with ASD and PTSD. This article is available online at: Brief articles and summary sheets specifically for divers on the subjects of traumatic stress reactions, death and panic are available at


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