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Psychological First Aid
What You Can Do to Help

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  • Encourage individuals to engage in physical activities and to combine these activities with useful tasks.

Take care of yourself.

  • Get enough rest and eat healthy foods.
  • Pay attention to your own stress responses.
  • Seek out family and friends for support.
  • Try exercising or other physical activity to relieve stress.
  • Engage in helpful, productive activities that are satisfying and useful in the situation.
  • Follow the advice you would give others.
  • Manage your own reaction when faced with emotional outbursts from others by:
    • Remaining quiet and calm.
    • Avoiding the temptation to engage in a shouting match.
    • Acknowledging the personís point of view.
    • Disengaging and respectfully walking away from the person if you are being insulted or threatened.

Contacting law enforcement personnel if you feel that you are in danger. For more information about Emergency Preparedness and Psychological First Aid, refer to www.ready.govLeaving OMH site and Leaving OMH site

When Disaster Strikes We often take the regular routines of each day for granted. We may even on occasion complain about how difficult it is to achieve a reasonable balance. But somehow we manage.

Then our lives suddenly change. A flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, or school shooting catches us off guard. It doesnít even have to affect us directly to leave its mark. You realize that you could be that person, in such a situation, who has lost loved ones, all your worldly possessions, and your livelihood. It may be only a matter of circumstances that spared you from a similar fate.

Andrea Booher/FEMA Photo

The closer people are to the disaster, one that strikes in their homes, workplaces, or schools, the more likely they are to experience stress reactions in the hours, days, and, possibly, weeks following the event. They must contend with so much more than trying to achieve a work-life balance. Now think about what it would be like to find yourself in the midst of a disaster. How would you ease the burden for yourself and for those around you?

Immediately after the Disaster
Attending to the basic needs of people in distress is essential. This is where Psychological First Aid (PFA) can be helpful. PFA is a way to give emotional support and help to people of any age, ethnic and cultural heritage, and social and economic background in the immediate aftermath of disaster.

Personal factors, along with the specific circumstances of the disaster will evoke different stress reactions, from you, your family members, friends, colleagues, or people you hardly know, but nevertheless have encountered because of the disaster.

You may interact with individuals who are experiencing:

PFA will provide you with basic strategies to help people cope with their pressing concerns and needs in the days and weeks after the disaster. These are also strategies that you can practice for yourself so that you can remain calm, focused, and able to help others.

Reach out to those who need help and provide comfort care.

man with dog
Andrea Booher/FEMA Photo

Recognize basic needs and support problem-solving.

Validate survivorsí feelings and thoughts.

Provide accurate and timely information.

woman with children
Lief Skoogfors/FEMA Photo

Connect people with their support systems.

Provide education about stress responses.

Reinforce strengths and positive coping strategies.

man with son
Michael Rieger/FEMA Photo

Project Director/Subject Matter Expert: Jack Herrmann, MSED., NCC, LMHC

Reviewer/Subject Matter Expert: Valerie Cole, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

Designer/Writer: Antonia Messineo

© University of Rochester, 2007. These materials were made possible by funding provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Preparedness and Response for Bioterrorism grant, Cooperative Agreement No. U90/CCU216988 administered by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and Health Research, Inc. (HRI). The content is solely the responsibility of the project director and does not necessarily represent the official views of DHHS, CDC, NYSDOH, or HRI.