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WHO COMMENCES PSYCHOLOGICAL FIRST AID FOR DISASTER

SURVIVORS
From the tremendous natural disasters that the Philippines had
suffered last year, from the monster typhoon, Yolanda in December, the
killer earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and the traumatic Zamboanga siege that
left many Filipinos in a state of daze, truly, it was a test of resilience among
the survivors. That is the exact reason why experts figured out that more
than the basic needs of these victims, people most significantly need
emotional and psychological support.
However, given the immense emotional toll involved in this provision of
support, it became a challenge on the part of the people who wanted to help
to prepare themselves in such a daunting task. After supertyphoon Yolanda
hit parts of Visayas mainly, Tacloban Leyte, the implementation of a
psychological technique termed as Critical Incident Stress Debriefing CISD
by professionals became a well known intervention for trauma survivors.
However, according to Psychological Association of the Philippines President,
Dr. Gina Hechanova , Mental health providers should be careful with the
psychological interventions they provide for the survivors of supertyphoon
Yolanda. Furthermore, World Health Organization warned against one-time
psychological debriefing as an early intervention after exposure to trauma
because this might hamper the patients natural recovery. Hechanova had
observed some counselors using the critical incident stress debriefing
(CISD) when attending to Yolanda survivors, who became more agitated
afterwards. The right psychosocial support in the first weeks after a disaster
is Psychological First Aid, a procedure that involves getting survivors to focus
on the here and now. In this procedure, survivors are asked about their
current needs, as well as empowered to cope with what is happening to
them. Unless they want to talk about the experience they went through, the
survivors are not forced to do so.
This approach seeks to provide survivors a sense of safety, selfefficacy, and link them to their immediate needs. However, this needs to be
given in coordination with other groups that can address the other needs of
survivors like medical attention, shelter, etcetera.
Stress debriefing
particularly CISD, was created to debrief rescue workers who go through
traumatic, life-threatening events. , she said.

In CISD, rescue workers are asked to relive the experience; go deeply


into what happened; and explore their feelings, reactions, and thoughts
during the crisis. According to Hechanova, this model is inappropriate
immediately after disasters, because for these survivors the first priority is to
give both physical and psychological safety. Survivors who have just come
out of disasters have not yet attained psychological safety, and the least
thing they need is to be brought back to the traumatic experience. She also
recommended that psychological interventions not be treated as a one-time
affair, as some survivors might need specialized help at a later time.
As advocated by the World Health Organization, Psychological first aid
(PFA) describes a humane, supportive response to a fellow human being
who is suffering and who may need support. Even before these tragic
disasters hit the Philippines, WHO had already formulated an intervention for
countries that suffered the same catastrophes. In fact, it could be noted that
on World Humanitarian Day, celebrated on 19 August, year 2011 WHO, the
War Trauma Foundation (WTF) and World Vision International (WVI)
announced the release of a Psychological first aid: Guide for fieldworkers.
In the last five years the psychological damage left in the wake of
tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts and conflicts has proven as devastating
as the physical damage", says Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant DirectorGeneral for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration. "Recognizing
that we can do more and do better for the mental health of disaster
affected populations, WHO and partners have developed this guide to
ensure that standards and best practices are consistently applied in
humanitarian settings.
Psychological first aid covers both social and psychological support
and involves the provision of humane, supportive and practical help to
people suffering from serious crisis events. Providing PFA responsibly
means: Respect safety, dignity and rights.; Adapt what you do to take
account of the persons culture; Be aware of other emergency response
measures; Look after yourself. Along without these are the three basic
principles that an aider must keep in mind, named as the Action
Principles- Look, Listen and Link.
Under Look, a counselor must do the following: Check for Safety; Check
for people with obvious urgent basic needs; and Check for people with
serious distress reactions. Under Listen, a counselor must: Approach
people who may need support; Ask about peoples needs and concerns; and
Listen to people, and help them to feel calm and lastly, under "link", a
counselor must: Help people address basic needs and access services; Help

people cope with problems; Give information ; and Connect people with
loved ones and social support.