We are all well aware of the physical first-aid. The white box with a red cross on top which contains all the necessary things like cotton, band-aid, dettol, etc. required for healing a physical injury and preventing any further injury. However, not many people are aware of a similar concept called Psychological First-Aid which involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings suffering serious crisis events. The World Health Organization (WHO) had even declared “Psychological First-Aid” as its theme for World Mental Health Day in 2016, which is celebrated every year on 10th October.
What is Psychological First Aid (PFA)?
It is a technique for providing support and care to a person who has just experienced crisis situation like - been involved in or witnessed an accident, terrorist attack, death of a loved one or suicide to help them deal with and recover from the traumatic event. Providing a helping hand in time can prevent the person from getting traumatized, his/her functioning getting disrupted, keep a check on maladaptive coping methods like excessive use of drugs or alcohol, or even taking an extreme step like attempting suicide.
Who can provide PFA?
Usually, it is done by mental health professionals, rescue volunteers, disaster management workers but it would be good if teachers, medical practitioners, health care providers and religious organizations also learn this so that the service providing group expands and more people can be professionally assisted in dealing with a crisis in an appropriate manner. Anyone who is trained in PFA can provide it and help the affected person function and cope better.
Themes involved in PFA
- Provide practical care and support in a non-intrusive manner
- Assess what the person needs and his/her concerns
- Help people to address basic needs (eg.- food, water, information)
- Protect them from any further injury/harm
- Listen to people but do not pressurize them to talk
- Comforting people and helping them to feel calm
- Seek professional help for further assistance if required.
‘Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. But STIGMA and BIAS shame us all’ - Bill Clinton