In the year 2016, the theme of the year for the World Health Organization (WHO) was Psychological First Aid (PFA). PFA is given to any individual who has recently faced severe loss or trauma following a crisis event and in need of primary intervention.
The world has witnessed both natural and man-made disasters. These include wars, natural disasters, and pandemic, and so on. The aftermath of these crisis events include people who are directly or indirectly affected by the crisis. Mostly, the people who are directly affected, e.g. war victims who are physically and/or sexually assaulted, would require immediate crisis intervention.
PFA is a powerful tool for intervention that has to be given at the very need of the moment by any person who has training on PFA. It doesn’t require a trained psychologist to deliver PFA, but an empathic person with an understanding of the very needs of affected people is required.
Whoever is providing PFA has to ensure the safety, dignity, and rights of the affected individuals. This helps need to be selfless and any kind of exploitation of the victims is prohibited.
The provider of PFA has to prepare him/herself beforehand. The preparation includes knowledge regarding the crisis event, available resources, and safety options. The providers of PFA need to be compassionate enough to listen to the victims and look for available options, then link the victims with the existing available resources and loved ones.
The basic things to do while providing PFA include:
- To listen more than to speak as well as not forcing or rushing anyone to tell their stories.
- Be patient, calm, and maintain dignity in terms of culture and customs of that society in terms of physical distance or otherwise.
- Provide factual information while validating their feelings. Avoid contradictions as much as possible.
Also, not to start an argument due any misinformation spread in the community.
- Acknowledge their potentials for helping or supporting each other and provide information in a way they would be able to understand.
- It’s possible to not be able to solve all the present problems of the individuals. Therefore, admit the shortcomings and not make fake promises.
- Always prioritize people who need more help compared to others.
Lastly, people who provide PFA need to be sure about a few
- Whether he/she is at the condition to provide PFA or not.
- Is there any connection with any group for safety and coordination or not.
- Personal health and limits.
- How to help and support colleagues.
- Reflect on the experiences afterward.
Debjani kar, Trained in premier mental health institution as a clinical psychologist (RCI Registered) in India and currently working as an Assistant Professor in department of clinical psychology, central institute of psychiatry (Rachi) . A research enthusiast in areas of cognitive neuroscience.