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Psychological First Aid
Spiritual Leaders and Practitioners

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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 person�s 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
Your day-to-day routine is predictable in many ways. The challenges you encounter as a spiritual leader are familiar to you, and you find comfort in responding to the spiritual needs of those you serve. Then disaster strikes and wreaks havoc in your community. Chaos replaces order. Businesses, homes, and places of worship are destroyed. Family members are displaced and separated from each other. Many from your congregation are injured or dead.

In the immediate aftermath of disaster, the people you serve are struggling with their emotions and beliefs as they reconcile faith with reality.

Greg Henhall/FEMA Photo

They face difficult challenges, including finding places to stay, getting food and basic necessities, locating missing relatives, getting medication, and protecting and caring for their children. You are the person they seek out and the one they trust.

Psychological First Aid in Your Faith-based Organization As you know from experience, 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.

Individuals, families with children and teens, and older adults bring such diversity to your faith community. Some are well-to-do with an abundance of resources; some are financially challenged. Some are blessed with emotional strength or physical health; while others suffer with psychological illness or chronic or debilitating health problems. These factors, along with the specific circumstances of the disaster will evoke many different responses from you and members of your community.

You can use PFA to meet the basic needs of people in stressful situations, no matter what the differences are among them. 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.

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

Andrea Booher/FEMA Photo

Recognize basic needs and support problem-solving.

Validate survivors� feelings and thoughts.

Provide accurate and timely information.

Robert Kaufmann/FEMA Photo

Connect people with their support systems.

Provide education about stress responses.

Reinforce strengths and positive coping strategies.

Andrea Booher/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.