psychological first aid.. techniques especially aimed at providing security and reducing symptoms related to acute stress

What is psychological first aid, when and where?

Psychological First Aid (PAP) are techniques especially aimed at providing security and reducing symptoms related to acute stress, trying to help re-establish as soon as possible the functioning, adaptation and coping of a person who has recently experienced a critical incident., which can be an emergency situation, a disaster or a catastrophe.

According to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (2007), psychological first aid involves protection of the affected person, verbal or non-verbal communication without invading or crossing boundaries, empathy, identification and satisfaction of needs, encouragement to participate in positive activities and culturally calming methods, contact with support networks and professional company with locally available services.

correct use of body language:

Figueroa, Cortés, Accatino and Sorensen, (2016) highlight that these techniques can promote resilience (trust, tranquility, self-efficacy, connection and calm) through five specific actions:
  • Active listening, which involves paying attention in order to show understanding, making correct use of body language.
  • Emotional containment, to help regain calm with breathing or distraction techniques.
  • Support in identifying and prioritizing needs.
  • Assistance in satisfying priority needs, by contacting the relevant support and social security networks.
  • Psychoeducation regarding the current and future emotional reactions linked to the situation.

Psychological first aid:

Psychological first aid, as pointed out by Gómez del Campo (as cited in Hernández & Gutiérrez, 2014), is oriented towards the manifestation of feelings and internal experiences of the affected person, allowing the elaboration of mourning in the face of loss, being directed, according to the World Health Organization, War Trauma Foundation, & World Vision International (2012) to anyone recently affected by a critical incident, including children or adults, who wants help and is in a physical and mental state to receive intervention .

respect for the dignity of the affected person:

In this sense, PAPs are often offered in the same place as the event, although the ideal would be to provide them in a space where privacy and confidentiality prevail, providing security, calm and respect for the dignity of the affected person.

Generally this will be as soon as contact is made with those in crisis and may be during or immediately after the event. However, in some cases, it may be days or weeks later, depending on the duration of the event or its severity (WHO, WTF & VMI, 2012).

What are the critical incidents within the context of FCV?

Within the critical incidents, considering the events that can occur in the Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia, the death of a family member or significant person, the news about the health status of a patient, and some approach or surgical procedure are taken into account.

How to do psychological first aid?

1- Evaluate applicability:

The objective is to assess whether the person affected by the critical incident requires first-instance intervention (PAP). It is done according to the state in which the person is, for example, if they do not want to receive help or if they are experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

2- Contact and presentation:

The objective is to create a safe environment with the person, sharing the name of the person who provides the service, their role within the institution and the reasons for their presence in that place. In addition, information is collected regarding the affected person, such as the name, who he is and who is accompanying him.

3- Active listening:

The goal is to convey understanding and empathy to the affected person. Space is given for him to narrate his story spontaneously, without pressuring him, making correct use of body language and avoiding judging the person.

4- Emotional containment:

The objective is to calm the affected person through basic breathing techniques.

5- Categorization of needs:

The objective is to help the person to order the steps that must be followed to solve their problems. It is important to help him identify and prioritize his needs.

6- Referral to support networks:

The objective is to help the affected person to contact people and/or social support services. Contact with family, friends and/or social support services is facilitated and practical suggestions are made on how to receive the necessary help.

7- Coping guidelines:

The objective is to encourage the affected person to cope with the critical situation. Current and future emotional reactions to the situation are presented as normal, and stress response strategies are promoted, such as adequate sleep, constant water consumption, balanced diet, breathing techniques and distraction, among others.

8- Connection with external services:

The objective is to generate a link between the affected person and other entities or institutions that can provide help. This is done in case the affected person needs to contact funeral services and/or the police. In this case, the affected party is referred to the user service section.