Nationally and internationally, the most endorsed response in the early aftermath of a disaster is Psychological First Aide. Used by those responding to disasters, it is a set of guidelines that you can learn to use for yourself and others.
Just as knowing certain aspects of Medical First Aid can help you minimize injury and reduce future medical complications, knowing and using certain aspects of Psychological First Aid can help you reduce the emotional impact of a disaster and its consequences.
Here are Five Steps for Using Psychological First Aid
I. Establish Physical Safety
Families have moved in together in arrangements they never would have dreamed possible-as a way of keeping each other safe.
II. Establish Psychological Safety
III. Maintain Connections
Connections are crucial to both physical and psychological safety. Being a compassionate presence to others and feeling compassion and care from others is what sustains us. Being a compassionate presence basically means just “ being there.” Given the importance of attachment bonds on our neurophysiology, it is reparative and restorative in small doses.
Helping Connections- Something that provides support, reduces helplessness, and mitigates isolation is the capacity to help others. Helping others and letting them help you not only speaks to “the power of giving” in generating happiness; but can restore a sense of personal competence and community vitality.
Children’s Connections- Experts tell us that the greatest trauma for children is the abuse or betrayal by those who are supposed to love and protect them. Natural disasters are actually something children can cope with when they are able to stay connected with loving caregivers.
I have often told parents that in the face of evacuation, shelters, loss and damages – if you are present, make some sense of what is happening and convey that you are ok and that it will be ok – the children will feel safe.
IV. Use Stress Reduction
V. Recognize Coping Skills
In the aftermath of disaster, the nature of the situation can make time stand still. It seems as if the life you knew stopped on the day before the disaster and since then you are caught up in a context that is hard to fathom, much less deal with.
A few days after Hurricane Sandy, without power, light, heat or phone contact, I remember saying to my husband, “ I feel like I can’t think myself out of this.”
Given that there is a shutdown of the ” thinking” part of the brain to optimize the fight-or-flight response to a crisis, it takes some calming down to remember and draw upon your coping skills.
You can appreciate the benefit when you hear partners, families,and First Responders reminding each other of their coping capacities.
Coping skills vary and unfold from the personal gifts and resiliencies we have. They can be physical strength, intelligence, problem solving ability, social skills, artistic talent, spirituality, love of nature, creative thinking, independence, generosity, etc.
In the best of situations, our coping skills blend, support, compliment and are affirmed by those around us.
No matter how big or small, we can take steps to protect ourselves and those we love in the aftermath of disaster.
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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: November 9, 2012 | World of Psychology (November 9, 2012)
Best of Our Blogs: November 9, 2012 | Mental Health BlogMental Health Blog (November 9, 2012)
Last reviewed: 10 Nov 2012