Psychological First Aid

Psychological First AidNo one likes to think about disasters occurring. Despite this, crises due to natural and man-made disasters affect Ohioans every year. No person or region in our state is immune from experiencing the trauma associated with these events.

When such tragedies occur, Ohioans invariably rally to provide assistance and support to those in need. As a national leader in the delivery of behavioral health care services, OhioMHAS has built community-based systems of care that promote recovery and the efficient use of resources. Clinicians trained as behavioral health responders serve as crisis counselors. Psychological First Aid education and training is vital to enhance and expand our capacity to offer appropriate interventions when responding to emergencies.

Psychological First Aid is a supportive intervention for the immediate aftermath of traumatic events or large-scale crises. It is an evidence-informed, modular approach designed to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. Principles and techniques of Psychological First Aid meet four basic standards. They are:

  1. consistent with research evidence on risk and resilience following trauma;
  2. applicable and practical in field settings;
  3. appropriate for developmental levels across the lifespan; and
  4. culturally informed and delivered in a flexible manner.

Psychological First Aid does not assume that all individuals will develop severe mental health problems or long-term difficulties in recovery. Instead, it is based on an understanding that those who have been impacted by traumatic events experience a broad range of early reactions (e.g., physical, psychological, behavioral, spiritual). Some of these reactions will cause enough distress to interfere with adaptive coping. Support from compassionate and caring responders can promote recovery.

Basic Objectives of Psychological First Aid

  • Establish a human connection in a non-intrusive, compassionate manner.
  • Enhance immediate and ongoing safety and provide physical and emotional comfort.
  • Calm and orient emotionally overwhelmed or distraught individuals.
  • Help individuals relay their immediate needs and concerns and gather additional information as appropriate.
  • Offer practical assistance and information to help individuals address their immediate needs and concerns.
  • Connect individuals to social support networks as soon as possible. This includes family, friends, neighbors and campus and community resources.
  • Support adaptive coping, acknowledge coping efforts and strengths, and empower individuals; encourage students, faculty and staff to take an active role in their own recovery.
  • Provide information that may help individuals cope effectively with the psychological impact of large-scale crises or traumatic events.
  • When appropriate, link individuals to services and resources in the community.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a six-hour interactive online course about Psychological First Aid (PFA). Participants are put in the role of a provider in a post-disaster scene. This professionally-narrated course is for individuals new to disaster response who want to learn the core goals of PFA, as well as for seasoned practitioners who want a review. It features innovative activities, video demonstrations, and mentor tips from the nation’s trauma experts and survivors. PFA-Online also offers a Learning Community where participants can share about experiences using PFA in the field, receive guidance during times of disaster, and obtain additional resources and training.