Psychological first aid for ALL

  • July 2, 2019

Psychological first aid for ALL

Photo: Aida Taroyan, Armenian Red Cross Society

Psychological first aid (PFA) is a simple, yet powerful way of helping someone in distress. It involves paying attention to the person’s reactions, active listening and if relevant, practical assistance to help address immediate problems and basic needs. Learning psychological first aid skills and understanding reactions to crises empowers helpers to help others and apply the same skills to their own lives.

Look, Listen, Link are the three action principles that psychological first aid rests upon. The principles were developed by the WHO. Look, Listen, Link refers to the importance of understanding the situation, supporting the affected person and linking up with other services.

With the aim to equip all 14 million Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers with the skills to provide psychological first aid, the IFRC is embarking on an ambitious, global project named “PFA for ALL”.

The first step in the “PFA for ALL” programme was the development of a comprehensive tool kit PFA for Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which comprises a guide, a small booklet on PFA, and four training modules on PFA, including PFA for children and PFA for groups.

»In recent years my country has witnessed armed conflict, and we provide emergency first aid during disasters and conflict. But we haven’t been focused on taking care of the psychological issues that come with injury or witnessing distressing events. After I started teaching the emergency first aiders in my branch about this neglected area of support, other branches have seen the need and asked me to provide trainings to their volunteers.«

– Nurudeen Hussain Magaji, Nigerian Red Cross Society, participant in a training of trainers in PFA at the PS Centre in 2018

Testimonials from Trainers of Trainers (ToT):

PFA for all of Nigeria

My name is Nurudeen Hussain Magaji, and I’m a volunteer with Nigerian Red Cross Society Plateau State Branch. I was trained as a trainer in psychological first aid at the PS Centre in Copenhagen in June 2018. Since then I have spent most of my spare time building the capacity of my colleagues in the Nigerian Red Cross Society, both in my own branch and in other branches.

In recent years my country has witnessed armed conflict, and we provide emergency first aid during disasters and conflict. But we have not focused on taking care of the psychological issues that come with injury or witnessing distressing events. After I started teaching the emergency first aiders in my branch about this neglected area of support, other branches saw the need and asked me to provide trainings to their volunteers. Since the training in Copenhagen, I have trained about 100 volunteers from seven branches. They always show a great appreciation and need for more learning opportunities on how to support vulnerable people in distressing situations.

PFA teaches us to handle ourselves, volunteers and vulnerable people. Affected people always show appreciation when Red Cross volunteers care for them through the Look, Listen, Link principles. It’s a nice experience to see how the volunteers react to gaining these new skills.

Nurudeen Hussain Magaji, Nigerian Red Cross Society.

eCBHFA with a stronger focus on MHPSS

The eCBHFA approach now includes a new and updated version of Psychological First Aid and Mental Health component. The low budget programme is planned and implemented based on community needs in any kind of environment or context such as urban areas, rural areas, schools, emergency shelters, migrant camps and even prisons. The new and updated version is now operational in 125 countries. One of the important innovations in eCBHFA is a much stronger focus on mental health and psychosocial support. Mental health and psychosocial support is represented in both the core volunteer modules with a short training on psychological first aid and in the primary prevention module with a two-day training on basic community-based psychosocial support. Furthermore, it is streamlined into modules on other subjects.

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