The Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists joins with the global community in observing World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2016. This year the theme focuses on Psychological First Aid (PFA) which refers to the first line psychosocial support following a crisis event. These crisis events can be large scale, like the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in Syria or it could occur at the individual level, such as being a victim of a violent assault or losing your home to a fire.

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“Psychological First Aid is humane, supportive & practical assistance to fellow human beings who recently suffered a serious stressor” -World Health Organisation

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PFA offers people a comforting, listening ear, support and access to help in the aftermath of a crisis event. It helps them to cope with the emotional and social consequences and connects them with the resources they need to get further help.

You don’t need to be a professional to offer PFA. PFA is not professional counselling nor is it a form of psychological treatment. It does not involve analsying people and no one forces anyone to talk. Often those who are around immediately after a crisis might be relatives, friends, community members, police officers, doctors, other first responders- these are the ones who might offer PFA.
If you are ever in a situation where you need to offer PFA, here are some tips:

Dos:

  1. Show you care by listening. Be patient, calm and attentive.
  2. Be honest and keep it simple. Only give information if you actually have it.
  3. Respect people’s privacy and confidentiality.
  4. Acknowledge their strengths and empower them.
  5. Act appropriately for people’s age, gender, religion and culture.

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“I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

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Don’ts:

  1. Don’t be pushy, interrupt or force people to talk.
  2. Don’t exploit the relationship or exagerate your skills. Don’t expect payment or favours in return for helping.
  3. Don’t make false promises or false reassurances. Don’t make things up or speculate.
  4. Don’t tell them your or someone else’s story. Don’t give your opinion, just listen.
  5. Don’t undermine or negate their feelings telling them how they should feel or why they shouldn’t feel the way they do.
Psychological first aid helps people to feel safe, connected, hopeful and empowered to regain control of their lives. Just as important as medical first aid, everyone in a crisis can benefit from psychological first aid. For more information, see the WHO website http://www.who.int/mental_health/wo….
News Reporter
The Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists is the Association representing Psychology and its practitioners in Trinidad and Tobago.

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