Psychological First Aid

Every time, everywhere, people face situations that place them in very stressed conditions which may increase the possibility of having them come down with a mental health disorder. These crises are not
restricted to events we see in the news as people around us also experience such crisis too. Crisis could occur as a natural disaster, accident, violence or any form of abuse. They affect individuals in different ways such as the loss of a loved one, challenges faced at work, chronic ill health, loss of job or a relationship.  These persons need the right form of support to avoid increasing the risk of a psychological and mental disorder.
The 2016 World Health Mental Day theme is psychological first aid. The aim is to dignify mental health by equipping everyone with the knowledge of psychological first aid. When there is a physical injury or sudden illness, there is call for a physical first aid before the arrival of an expert. This helps to save the life of the person involved. In the same vein, rendering help to any traumatised fellow can go a long way to preserve the mental health as well as overall health of such person. Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a humane, supportive and practical response to people suffering exposure to serious stressors and who may need support. It is an approach to help people recover by responding to their basic needs and showing them concern and care, in a way that respects their wishes, culture, dignity and capabilities (WHO).
 When faced with crisis, people react in various ways. As the effects of the recession bites harder, we all have the duty to check on our neighbour because while some may decide to speak up, others may be quiet yet display symptoms that will need a psychological first aid. Some common ways that people show their distress in reaction to a crisis are:
  • physical symptoms: headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, sad, aches and pains;
  • Emotional symptoms: Such as irritability, anger, anxiety, fear or feeling jumpy, guilt, shame (so-called survivors guilt);
  • Social symptoms: withdrawn, disoriented (not knowing their name or where they are from), not being able to care for themselves or their children
  • insomnia, nightmares.
According to the World Federation for Mental Health, Every 40 seconds somebody somewhere in the world dies by suicide and the young are disproportionately affected. Providing more people with basic psychological and mental health first aid skills will help to decrease the rate of suicide’. Therefore with the growing crisis all over the world, acquiring skills in psychological first aid could be a potential basic skill. These skills include ability to:   
     ·      Give non-intrusive care and support.
     ·         Help people address basic needs (food, water).
     ·         Listen, but not pressure people to talk
     ·         Comfort people and help them feel calm
     ·         Help people connect to right form of information, services and social support
     ·         Protect people from further harm


By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi


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