Just as how physical first aid is important for stabilizing physical health, psychological first aid helps stabilize psychosocial reactions in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Evidence also shows it improves survivors’ long-term physical and psychosocial well-being. Hence, disaster first responders may refer to the principles and practical tips below to cater to the immediate psychosocial needs of disaster survivors and their relatives. Also, as responders, you should remain flexible when applying these principles to address the individual needs of the survivors and their relatives as well as the cultural differences involved.

Ensure Safety

  • Goals
    • Promote immediate physical safety
    • Identify and meet survivors' basic needs and concerns, such as food, shelter and medical attention
  • Practical Tips
    • Address their need for physical comfort
    • Protect survivors from secondary trauma and potential trauma reminders e.g. minimize re-exposure to disaster scenes, limit the viewing of news report
    • Determine the need for immediate referral to medical and psychosocial services

Promote Contacts

  • Goals
    • Immediately arrange the re-connection of the disaster survivors with their families, friends and significant others
    • Establish ongoing contacts with the community resources
  • Practical Tips
    • Establish connection and rapport with survivors in non-intrusive ways
    • Facilitate re-union with family members, friends and significant others
    • Provide information or make referrals to obtain the community resources on socioeconomic support if needed

Enhance Calmness

  • Goals
    • Calm and orientate emotionally overwhelmed and confused survivors
  • Practical Tips
    • Listen to survivors' concerns patiently and empathetically
    • Orientate the survivors to the surroundings
    • Offer accurate information of the disasters and facilitate survivors' understanding of the information
    • If there is a need for breaking bad news to emotionally overwhelmed and confused survivors or relatives, ensure that they have sufficient psychological preparedness and support

Facilitate Coping

  • Goals
    • Provide information about common stress reactions
    • Enhance adaptive coping to reduce distress and promote restoration of functioning
  • Practical Tips
    • Educate survivors with post-disaster reactions and stress management skills
    • Discuss ways of coping with trauma reminders
    • Promote and support self-care
    • Provide information and make referrals for psychosocial services if needed

Instill Hope

  • Goals
    • Cultivate hope and motivation for recovery
  • Practical Tips
    • Promote survivors' motivation to plan for future
    • Assist survivors to find practical solutions or resources to facilitate their recovery if possible

Note:

  • Adapted from Disaster Triage and Management Manual (2014).