Psychological First Aid: Saving More Than Lives in Times of Crisis

Monday, February 20, 2023

On February 6, 2023, a powerful earthquake struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria, resulting in over 45,000 confirmed deaths, with numbers continuing to rise.

While rescue missions and physical first aid are necessary for victims, it is essential to recognize that psychological support is also critical. The recent earthquake serves as a reminder of the importance of Psychological First Aid (PFA).

While Physical First Aid is used to reduce physical discomfort due to bodily injury, Psychological First Aid is a strategy to reduce the painful range of emotions and responses experienced by people exposed to high stress. As such, PFA should be widely introduced and trained to better support individuals affected by natural disasters.

PFA's importance is frequently overlooked, and there is little public education on the subject. Even medical professionals might not get thorough training in PFA, and occasionally they might not get any.

In addition, many laypeople are unfamiliar with the term PFA, creating a knowledge gap that limits their ability to offer vital support to people affected by a disaster. This lack of training highlights the necessity of educating individuals about the significance of psychological first aid.

What exactly is PFA, and why is it important to employ it in emergency situations? PFA is a series of supportive acts that anyone from any background or career can use to offer early support to persons in need.

Assisting people in coping with the immediate and long-term repercussions of catastrophes, violence, or other traumatic events entails listening with compassion, providing knowledge, and providing practical support.

PFA attempts to develop coping mechanisms, foster resilience, and reestablish a sense of control and optimism. PFA assists in lowering the painful range of emotions and reactions felt by those under much stress.

In recent years, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other traumatic events have become more common worldwide. These events can leave individuals and entire communities struggling with emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health challenges.

PFA is a framework for supporting people in crisis and can be crucial in helping those affected by such events. The training focuses on supporting people during and after traumatic events. It involves providing emotional support, helping individuals to feel safe, and connecting them to essential services such as medical care, food, and shelter.

PFA also aims to prevent the onset of more severe mental health issues, such as PTSD, by providing early interventions and support. By learning PFA skills, individuals can support those around them, even if they are not mental health professionals.

PFA training can benefit anyone, as it provides valuable skills that can be applied in various situations. For instance, in the aftermath of a traumatic event, PFA can help to stabilize individuals and communities, providing the foundation for longer-term recovery.

It can also help in daily life by building resilience and providing coping strategies for dealing with stress and adversity. Furthermore, by learning PFA, individuals can significantly contribute to their community, supporting the mental health and well-being of those around them.

Several resources are available for individuals who want to learn about PFA training. One of these resources is a free online course on the Coursera platform offered by Johns Hopkins University.

The course is instructed by Dr. George Everly and provides a comprehensive overview of psychological first aid. Another option is to view the video provided by UCSF on the UCSF Virtual CE Portal, which explains PFA strategies for dealing with acute stress.

In addition to these resources, The University of Minnesota has developed a free PFA tutorial application that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.

This app is an excellent tool for individuals who want to learn about PFA on-the-go and at their own pace. With these resources, anyone can gain the necessary skills and knowledge to provide psychological first aid to those in need.

In conclusion, the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria highlight the value of PFA in aiding those impacted by natural catastrophes. PFA should be publicly publicized and made available to the general population and medical professionals.

In disaster-affected communities, it is crucial to understand the importance of psychological assistance and ensure people get the care and attention they need to recover from their traumatic experiences. “While CPR can save a life, PFA might save a soul”