Friday, October 02, 2009

REPOST: DO'S & DON'TS for Helping in Times of Disasters: Psychological First Aid

The following text is lifted from a Facebook note [source after the jump]:

Sometimes, well-meaning help can do more harm than good. This article gives us DO's and DON'TS tips that could help volunteers maximize the assistance they offer.

If we have first aid for physical injuries and diseases, we also have first aid for emotional, cognitive and behavioural difficulties. Others even consider psychological distress as more painful than the physical.

First responders could be used in generic terms as those who are first on the scene of the disaster when no or few specialists are available to help survivors. As we have seen at the height of “Ondoy” and until now, this means almost anybody who extends help.


Psychological First Aid for First Responders

When you work with people during and after a disaster, you are working with people who may be having reactions of confusion, fear, hopelessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, grief, shock, guilt, shame, and loss of confidence in themselves and others. Your early contacts with them can help alleviate their painful emotions and promote hope and healing. Your goal in providing this psychological first aid is to promote an environment of safety, calm, connectedness, self-efficacy, empowerment, and hope.


Promote Safety
o Help people meet basic needs for food and shelter, and obtain emergency medical attention.
o Provide repeated, simple, and accurate information on how to get these basic needs.

Promote Calm
o Listen to people who wish to share their stories and emotions, and remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
o Be friendly and compassionate even if people are being difficult.
o Offer accurate information about the disaster or trauma, and the relief efforts underway to help victims understand the situation.

Promote Connectedness
o Help people contact friends and loved ones.
o Keep families together. Keep children with parents or other close relatives whenever possible.

Promote Self-Efficacy
o Give practical suggestions that steer people toward helping themselves.
o Engage people in meeting their own needs.

Promote Help
o Find out the types and locations of government and nongovernment services and direct people to those services that are available.
o When they express fear or worry, remind people (if you know) that more help and services are on the way.


o DON'T Force people to share their stories with you, especially very personal details. This may decrease calmness in people who are not ready to share their experiences.

o DON'T Give simple reassurances like “everything will be OK” or “at least you survived.” Statements like these tend to decrease calmness.

o DON'T Tell people what you think they should be feeling, thinking, or how they should have acted earlier. This decreases self-efficacy or people’s belief about their capacity to positively deal with difficulties.

o DON'T Tell people why you think they have suffered by alluding to personal behaviors or beliefs of victims. (Note: For example, “Pinaparusahan ‘yan ng Diyos!” This also discourages people from viewing themselves as capable of dealing with their situation).

o DON'T Make promises that may not be kept. Un-kept promises decreases hope.

o DON'T Criticize existing services or relief activities in front of people in need of these services. This undermines environment of hope and calm.

o Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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