COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented situation which has led to struggles in the various domains- personal, social, economic, and political. The psychological aftermath of these changes can be predicted to be huge, and impacting several of us.
In many cases, a resolution of these issues would require professional mental health assistance. However, numerous persons in psychological distress may also benefit from an initial psychological first-aid.Just like first-aid in the case of physical injuries, psychological first-aid is only an immediate assistance to provide relief, and it may or may not require further line of complete treatment.
What is Psychological First-Aid?
Psychological First-Aid (PFA) is an approach for assisting persons who have suffered from a probable psychological trauma. It may also be useful to persons facing stressful life circumstances, such as the present pandemic situation, or any other stressful life event. It may be offered to people who ask for help. This is usually seen when a friend asks another friend to talk. This doesn’t mean that the problem can be solved. This usually implies that the distressed individual just wants to be heard, and to vent out.
In other cases, PFA may be offered to those who look or sound distressed. Approaching them and offering a listening ear, and a supportive presence may often be more difficult than when help is directly asked for PFA need not be provided by a mental health professional only. It is a first-line of psychological support, and can be given by anyone who comes in contact with the affected person/s. This usually includes people in the frontline- hospital staff and nurses, family members, neighbours, community members, police or ambulance medical team etc. PFA includes providing a compassionate, empathetic, and supportive presence, along with providing practical support. In times of a traumatic situation, even helping people to address basic needs such as food and water can be of significant importance. Oftentimes, the distressed individual has a need to vent-out and speak about one’s difficulties. The PFA provider may help in listening to him/her.This provides emotional comfort. The person should not be pressurized to be speak, but should do so only if s/he feels the need for the same. Showing concern, but providing reassurance alongside becomes important for the PFA provider. However, this reassurance is likely to be effective only if it is realistic, and should not include false hope or promises.
Calm demeanor of the PFA provider often induces a sense of relaxation in the distressed individual. Another important facet of PFA after hearing out the distressed individual includes developing of a further line of action. This could mean providing help in developing a plan for the management of the problem at hand- linking the individual to the required persons/services such as public health services, community services or organizations, local recovery teams, or even mental health professionals. The objective of PFA, thus, is to provide a distressed individual with a human connection, a comforting presence, a safe space to talk, and if required, linking to individuals or organizations for further support. PFA is not a substitute for mental healthcare but only a first-line of support which need not be provided only by mental health professionals.
About the Author.
Dr. Komal Manshani, trained in mental health as a clinical psychologist (RCI registered) in India and currently working as an Assistant Professor in institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences. She is a research enthusiast in the area of Clinical psychology.