When World Health Organization declared COVID 19 a pandemic. The first thought that came to my mind was mental health disaster preparedness. While the media discussions everywhere focused on viral and medical explanations, I couldn’t help wonder what other mental health providers were thinking? Well, maybe it was just me being paranoid. But my previous experiences with crisis situations warned me that, this will be a difficult pandemic. Spreading like bush fire with no equipment to quench it.
I was visiting Canada. The last week, all was quiet, social distancing messages were flashing everywhere. I waited for my return flight scheduled that weekend. But 2 days before, a call to close all borders and stop international flights was issued. My flight was rescheduled earlier with a different airline. The uncertainty as to whether to remain in Canada or to take the flight and face the 14 days self-isolation was enough anxiety to deal with. Observing other passengers on the flight and at the airports, I knew for sure that this crisis marked onset of mental health problems. On social media, people were sharing how any discomfort on the body or even a cough to clear the throat sent panic or chill down their spine, everything seemed symptomatic. These indeed are normal psychological reactions to abnormal events. I began to reflect on the concept of psychological first aid and how it could be used during the crisis.
Lending a Hand in a Pandemic!
Psychological First Aid (PFA) has it also know has evolved from the earlier version known as ‘Critical Incident Stress Debriefing – CISD’ by T. Mitchell to ‘Psychological Debriefing’ by Dyregrov, both which were very popular crisis intervention techniques in the 80s and 90s. However, research later proved them harmful because the survivors re-live the traumatic experience through the repetitive narration of the incident. This led to the development of Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Center for PTSD. They defined PFA as, ‘an evidence-informed modular approach to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the immediate aftermath of disaster and terrorism, fostering both short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. Principles include four basic standards:
- Consistent with research evidence on risk and resilience following trauma
- Applicable and practical in ﬁeld settings
- Appropriate for developmental levels across the lifespan
- Culturally informed and delivered in a ﬂexible manner. It minimizes overpathologizing and re-traumatization of individuals by providing;
- calmness/ Stabilization
- Promotes self-efficacy/ resilience
- Connectedness/ collaboration and social support
- Instills hope/ coping
- Need assessment/referrals
While I acknowledge the need for an Emotional Support App, building this Platform was an idea that I could not just ignore!
How are you lending a hand during this pandemic?