Health services response to persons affected by emergencies and traumatic events in Saint Lucia is expected to be enhanced as a result of recent psychological first aid training for emergency responders and health workers, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has said.
According to the Ministry’s Communications Unit, the psychological first aid training provided health workers and emergency responders with the necessary skills to provide psycho-social support to individuals, families and communities in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or traumatic event.
The unit quoted Consultant Psychiatrist at the National Mental Wellness Centre, Dr. Julius Gilliard, as saying that the training exercise was important because it provided participants with strategies for managing emotions and promoting a safe and calm environment.
“We are training persons in psychological first aid which would be given to persons after a crisis event and they would be trained on how to approach persons; what to say to them which would help them deal with the situation and what not to say to them which would cause more harm than good,” Gilliard explained.
Some of the areas highlighted included who to give psychological first aid to after a crisis event, who would need more than psychological first aid, when it can be given and where and the safest place to give it.
According to Gilliard, the training also addressed how the helpers in the crisis situation can take care of themselves as well.
He emphasised that psychological first aid, rather than psychological debriefing, should be offered to people who were recently exposed to a traumatic event.
“In times gone by, what used to happen was that after a crisis event, persons would receive psychological debriefing and what studies have shown is that this has tended to cause more harm than good and can actually precipitate symptoms of post-traumatic stress,” Gilliard noted.
“Psychological first aid is more or less if we can use an antidote like putting a Band-Aid on a wound. So the person would initially receive psycho-social support and if they would need more than that they would be referred to the appropriate agency like a counsellor or a psychiatrist where they would get further support.”
The psychological first aid training was made possible through the support of the Pan American Health Organisation PAHO and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.