Similar to basic first aid, Psychological First Aid (PFA) can be described as a way to ‘bandage’ the mental problem. It isn’t a substitute for mental therapy with an expert psychologist—but it’s an essential first response tool.

A traumatic event can push individuals into a state of grief, shock, terror, uncertainty, which needs to be addressed immediately before it worsens.

According to the John Hopkins Guide to Psychological First Aid, a supportive and compassionate presence can help do the following:

  • Soothe the situation
  • Ease acute distress
  • Enable access to regular supportive care

The importance of PFA cannot be understated in a distressful situation. Here’s what you need to know about administering PFA.

Engage with the person

Much like regular first aid, early intervention is the key to preventing long-term, permanent effects of the problem. If you are concerned for someone’s mental health, approach them privately and get permission before moving forward. Psychological distress is a sensitive subject, and many people don’t want to share their thoughts.

Let them know that you’re willing to listen to them anytime without making any demands or offering inaccurate reassurances.

Move to a safe location

Ask the person if they want to move to another location where they would feel safer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a private setting they are familiar with—just a place where they feel more relaxed.

Stabilize the person

The mind and body are uniquely connected—the mind doesn’t always lead the body. In many cases, physical motions can direct the mind to a state of calm. If the person is panicking or distraught, try to get them to engage in breathing exercises or soothing motions.

Meet their basic needs

Once the person is calm, make an effort to meet their immediate needs. If they need physical resources, such as a blanket or water, try to provide those quickly. If they’re seeking out their family, it’s best to connect them with those people.

Learn Psychological First Aid

Learning more about PFA can better prepare you for any mental health emergencies. Not only can you help those around you, but it also equips you with tools to manage a distressing situation yourself.

Metro Safety Canada is one of the leading first aid training institutes in British Columbia. We have been providing occupational first aid training and Red Cross basic life support training since 2008.

For more information about our courses, you can reach out online or call 604-521-4227.