Psychological First Aid
Crisis events, both large-scale and individual occur in every community in the world. These events have physical, social and emotional consequences for those affected. Large-scale events include; disease outbreaks, huge accidents, floods, fires, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks. Individual events affect one or a few people; such as accidents, robbery, assault.
Psychological First Aid (PFA) is of great importance for helping others in need or those affected by crisis events. Immediately after a crisis, those who assist are often family members, neighbors, teachers, community members and first responders of various kinds (emergency medical teams, police, and firefighters).
What is Psychological First Aid?
Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a term used to denote the humane, supportive & practical assistance to people who recently suffered a serious stressor. It is usually provided immediately following a crisis event when encountering a person in distress. It involves:
- Non-intrusive, practical care and support
- Assessing needs and concerns
- Listening, but not pressuring people to talk
- Comforting people and helping them to feel calm
- Helping people connect to information, services and social supports
- Protecting people from further harm
People do better over the long term if they feel safe, connected to others and have access to support. It helps people regain a sense of control by being able to help themselves.
PFA, like medical “first aid”, is not enough on its own.
What Psychological First Aid is NOT?
- NOT something only professionals can do
- NOT professional counseling
- NOT a clinical or psychiatric intervention (although can be part of good clinical care)
- NOT “psychological debriefing”
- NOT asking people to analyze what happened or put time and events in order
- NOT pressuring people to tell you their story
How to Help Responsibly?
Respect Safety, Dignity And Rights
- Safety: don’t expose people to further harm, ensure (as best you can) they are safe and protected from further physical or psychological harm.
- Dignity: treat people with respect and according to their cultural and social norms.
- Rights: act only in people’s best interest.
Be aware of other emergency response measures.
- Be honest and trustworthy.
- Respect a person’s right to make their own decisions.
- Be aware of and set aside your own biases and prejudices.
- Respect privacy and keep the person’s story confidential, as appropriate.
- Behave appropriately according to the person’s culture, age and gender.
- Make it clear to people that even if they refuse help now, they can still access help in the future.
- Don’t exploit your relationship as a helper.
- Don’t make false promises or give false information.
- Don’t force help on people, and don’t be intrusive or pushy.
- Don’t pressure people to tell you their story.
- Don’t share the person’s story with others.
- Don’t judge the person for their actions or feelings.