Psychological First Aid is often overlooked but can be sometimes more important than medical first aid especially in the event of a national disaster. People need Psychological First Aid when having to deal with emotional distress from an accident, injury, or even just a shocking event. Consider the events of 9/11 or hurricane Katrina where there was a combination of all three. There were people who died, people who required medical first aid or trauma assistance, and the rest required psychological first aid. Just like a regular person can be trained to administer first aid, so can a regular person be trained to administer psychological first aid training.
When the US reflects on the tragic events of 9/11, as many poor souls that were lost and wounded, there were many more that required intense psychological first aid, similar to medical first aid, until professional help was available. As people watched buildings explode and people jumping out of multi story windows rather than burn to death, the emotional distress must have been not only unimaginable but also devastating. Some people just fell to the ground in a panic and could not even breathe. All of the paramedics were too busy to deal with something that may have seemed so trivial but to these people, psychological first aid was vital.
Psychological First Aid training teaches practical and frontline emotional assistance while it is easy enough to learn and reapply. The training can save many lives and prevent harmful behaviors. The overall presence of Psychological First Aid increases the success of the overall emergency situation. No one wants or expects someone who has taken Psychological First Aid training to be able to debrief, counsel, provide psychotherapy, or offer mental health treatment.
Psychological First Aid should be offered in tragic emergency situations such as witnesses to severe auto accidents, fires, shootings, shocking events like the ones that have unfolded over the past decade such as 9/11, hurricane Katrina, and the Tsunami. These are events that once people witness something of this magnitude they are scarred for life. These people although they are not missing a limb or losing great amounts of blood are traumatized and need Psychological First Aid.
In large scale disasters or acts of terrorism, emergency mental help will be ranked so far down the list of priorities that no one knows for sure when they will be addressed. So when people are considering taking first aid they may also want to consider training in Psychological First Aid as well because this truly is another form of saving a life. This type of training has become more popular within the workplace in recent years with all of the organizational disasters that have caught the nation by surprise.
Courses in Psychological First Aid training are generally about seven hours in length but well worth every hour. This is another way that caring people can reach out and help while the alternative is to do nothing. For most people it is not part of their nature to just watch a person who is in pain, be it physical or emotional, and to not offer a hand.