Do You Know How to Give Psychological First aid?

· August 20, 2017

Psychological first aid is necessary in different situations. For example, it is required when catastrophic situations occur, when a person is the victim of something horrific, or when an uncontrollable crisis is unleashed. Just as with physical first aid, it is suggested that we know the basic principles of emergency psychological attention. 

Of course, mental health professionals are the best qualified to provide psychological first aid, in the strictest sense. But, on occasion, the situation calls for us to act quickly if the psychologist will take a while to arrive. From there, it is important for us to have a few basic skills to know how to act.

“Know to anticipate. And anticipate to protect.”
-Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba


The goal of psychological first aid is to reduce emotional anguish that is caused by traumatic events, and care for human beings so that they can regain their ability to confront problems. Providing initial care is vital so that the experience does not devastate them.

Basic Principles of Psychological First Aid

When giving psychological first aid to someone who needs it you should know the five-pillar principles. Obviously, this type of intervention should only be done if there is not a competent professional at hand. But, in any case, they are vital to limit the effects caused by something traumatic. These five principles are:

  • Allow freedom of expressionDo not try to focus the conversation on what happened, allow them to express themselves in the manner they want. It does not have to be a conversation, it is not even imperative for you to understand what they say. What the victim needs, most of the time, is to feel that you are close.
  • Responsible listening. The victim does not need advice, and much less sermons. If you are not a mental health professional, the best thing for you to do is limit yourself to listening, and only intervene to encourage them to express themselves. It is not the time to become bossy, but rather simply to be there.
  • Show acceptance. You should be ready to accept everything the victim has to say. It is even possible that he will make outlandish statements or express feelings that have nothing to do with the situation. Tell him that he is not crazy for not feeling any fear when something catastrophic has happened, or sadness when losing a loved one.
  • Foster confidence and empathyLet the victim know they can count on you, that you are there to support and help them. Above all, that you have no intention of judging them, or judging what happened, but just to give support.
  • Provide information. It is important that you have all the information you will need readily available. Whether it’s looking over the list of those injured or knowing who their own doctor is. Until a professional arrives it is best for you to just be you, or the person who is just giving first aid, the one keeping the lines of communication open between the person and the rest of the world.

Psychological First Aid Protocol

Just as there are certain protocols to follow when providing physical first aid, there also exists such routes to follow in the case of a psychological emergency. The steps that should be taken have not been arbitrarily established. They are the result of the experience of professionals who have dedicated their time to studying the effects of different types of intervention in emergency situations. Following we will tell you the protocols:

  • Establishing contact and closeness. This includes introducing yourself (if you don’t know the victim), tell them why you are there, invite the person to sit down and assure them their privacy will be respected.
  • Offer security and relief. Before anything, you should offer physical security. First ensure the person is outside the reach of the threat. Next, let them know what you are going to do. Then, make sure the person feels comfortable and they do not have any physical injuries requiring attention, and if they do, find a way to provide that attention.
  • Stabilize. Our goal is to ensure the victim does not close off all lines of communication, but to leave one open, even a small one. If the person is very agitated, ask them to look at you and listen to you. Show them how you are going to help them. Encourage the person to breathe deeply until they calm down.
  • Compile information. This includes asking the victim how they feel, what they want, and what they need. Give them time if they do not want to speak. Do not pressure them. Simply let them know you are at their disposal. Check out their medical state, remember that many victims are in a state of shock that not only disconnects them from their surroundings, but also makes them incapable of feeling physical pain, that in other instances they would feel. It is also common for someone who has seen such an enormous tragedy, and being conscious of the need for medical care, but are not willing to seek it out themselves.
  • Offer practical assistance. Based on the compiled information, draw up a plan of basic action and act. That action will be contacting the services the victim needs, make note of their needs, and fill any possible.

Psychological first aid contributes to minimizing the effects of a crisis. Your principle role, without a doubt, is to make sure the victim receives the care they need from a professional. Your work is limited to “the time being” and should be provided and understood in that manner. The key is to be a liaison.