11:12am Tuesday 15 October 2019

New psychological first aid guide to strengthen humanitarian relief

Humanitarian emergencies – such as earthquakes, extreme drought, or war – not only affect people’s physical health but also their psychological and social health and well-being.

Psychological first aid guide for fieldworkers

On World Humanitarian Day, celebrated on 19 August, WHO, the War Trauma Foundation (WTF) and World Vision International (WVI) announce 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 Director-General 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.

Simple, practical guidance

This guide – which can be taught to humanitarian workers within one day for immediate use – was developed in order to have widely agreed upon psychological first aid materials for use in low and middle income countries. It reflects the emerging science and international consensus on how to provide basic support to people in the immediate aftermath of extremely stressful events.

Endorsed by 24 large international agencies, this guide gives simple, practical guidance for supporting people in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities. This guide will enable humanitarian and emergency workers from all over the world to provide basic but vital psychosocial support to people in acute distress, including helping distressed relief workers themselves.

“Knowing how to support someone who has just experienced a crisis event – to listen, to comfort and to help them regain control of their situation in practical ways – is key in crisis situations. This guide will help humanitarian aid workers and others to offer support in ways that respect the culture, dignity, abilities and rights of survivors – wherever they are in the world.” says Dr Leslie Snider, Senior Programme Advisor at the War Trauma Foundation in the Netherlands.

Providing psychological support

The guide orients humanitarian workers on how to give basic psychological support, i.e. to listen without pressing the person to talk; to assess a person’s needs and concerns; to help ensure that basic physical needs are met; and to provide or mobilize social support, and to protect people from further harm. The guide emphasizes support and protection to people who may need special attention in crises, including separated children and adolescents, people with disabilities, and people at risk of discrimination or violence.

“This guide will enable us to rapidly scale up basic psychological first aid for adults and children throughout all our development and humanitarian emergency programming in almost 100 countries around the world” reports Dr Stefan Germann, Director of Global Health Partnerships at World Vision International.

The guide will be available in different languages.

For more information, please contact:

Dr M. Taghi Yasamy
Medical Officer
Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Telephone: +41 22 791 2222
E-mail: yasamym@who.int

Joint news release WHO/War Trauma Foundation/World Vision Int.

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