Psychological First Aid

Psychological First Aid

Based on the idea of human resilience, psychological first aid (PFA) is a method based on solid research. In the aftermath of a traumatic incident, catastrophic event, public health emergency, or simply a personal crisis, PFA tries to lessen stress symptoms and aid in a healthy recovery.

A method called psychological first aid (PFA) aims to lessen the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder. A division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Centre for Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (NC-PTSD), created it in 2006. The American Psychological Association (APA), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and many more have all approved and used it. More than 25 catastrophe mental health researchers, an online poll of the initial cohort who utilised PFA, and several evaluations of the draught were all involved in its two-day intense development.

The NC-PTSD describes psychological first aid as a modular, evidence-based method for helping people in the immediate wake of a tragedy or terrorist attack to lessen early distress and promote both short- and long-term adaptive functioning. It was utilised by volunteers and responders who were not specialists in mental health. Non-intrusive pragmatic care and need assessment are additional traits. PFA doesn’t always require talking about the traumatic experience and stays away from any “debriefing” activities because such have been linked to higher incidence of PTSD.

Debriefing was a practise that existed before to PFA. Debriefing was a required stage in the “Critical Incident Stress Management” (CISM) commercially accessible training programme designed to lessen PTSD. After a significant tragedy, it was intended to lower the prevalence of post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The devastating effects of PTSD are already well understood; many who experience it report avoidance, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and numbness. After a tragedy, debriefing processes were made mandatory in an effort to stop the onset of PTSD.  It was intended to facilitate emotional processing by fostering memories of the incident. Debriefing began in the military, where it was used to promote morale and lessen stress following missions. However, the US Department of Defence terminated the practise in 2002 after finding evidence that it increased the risk of PTSD. The debriefing process consisted of seven steps that were completed in a single session: introduction, facts, thoughts and impressions, emotional reactions, normalisation, future planning, and disengagement.

Debriefing was discovered to be, at best, ineffectual and, at worst, detrimental. In fact, several studies revealed that debriefing actually caused PTSD rates to rise. There are several explanations for why debriefing led to an increase in PTSD cases. First off, a single session did not benefit people who were likely to have PTSD. Second, re-traumatization may result from being reintroduced to the trauma too quickly. In cognitive behavioural treatment, exposure therapy enables the patient to get used to the stimuli before gradually escalating the intensity. The debriefing did not permit this. After a debriefing, normal discomfort was judged to be pathological, and individuals who had experienced trauma believed that their unhappy feelings were indicative of a mental illness.

Debriefing makes the assumption that everyone responds to trauma in the same manner and that anyone who differs from that course is disordered. But, there are several methods to deal with a trauma, particularly so soon after it occurs. Several of the problems with debriefing appear to be addressed by PFA. It is optional, open to several sessions, and connects people in need of more assistance to resources. It deals with real-world problems that are frequently more serious and stressful. By allowing people to handle things their own way, it also increases self-efficacy. PFA has made an effort to be culturally sensitive, but it hasn’t been proven to be so. Yet the absence of actual data is a problem. While being supported by studies, it is not proven by research. Similar to the debriefing approach, it has gained considerable popularity without being put to a test; however, whereas PFA deliberately avoids debriefing, debriefing has been related to negative consequences.

It is essential to first evaluate the threats to safety and security before gathering information about the incident that is taking place or has already occurred, as well as about persons who require aid, their physical injuries, fundamental requirements, and their emotional reactions.

  1. Approach the person in need of help.
  2. Introduce yourself.
  3. Pay attention and listen actively.
  4. Understand the other person’s feelings.
  5. Calm the person in crisis.
  6. Ask about their needs and concerns.
  7. Assist the troubled individual with their immediate requirements and try to resolve the problem(s).

It is essential to first evaluate the threats to safety and security before gathering information about the incident that is taking place or has already occurred, as well as about persons who require aid, their physical injuries, fundamental requirements, and their emotional reactions.

The following factors have been regarded as the five fundamental parts of psychological first aid based on research on risk and resilience, real-world experience, and professional perspectives. While providing PFA, these elements must be the main priority:

  • Giving the assurance of safety: While giving a PSA, emergency responders and mental health professionals must speak in a way that the people in distress may comprehend that the distressing event is over. They can also shelter the upset individual from the situation while reassuring them of their safety in order to do this. The emergency response team members can demonstrate what actions have been done to maintain their sense of security.
  • Calm the patient: Maintaining the patient’s composure is essential while reacting to them. To convey to the patient that they are now in a secure location, the emergency response personnel must talk and behave gently. The employees can utilise breathing exercises to relax, such as taking a deep breath, holding it for four counts, and then gently exhaling. Moreover, this might be utilised to soothe the patient.
  • Enhancing individual and group efficacy: Patients can develop their sense of self-efficacy by being actively involved in their own rescue. They can be motivated to help themselves and their friends in need by being encouraged and reminded of their strengths. Also, it will assist them in coping with the trauma, getting over their sense of powerlessness, and joining the team.

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