Psychological First Aid (PFA)
PFA is “a humane, supportive response to a fellow human being who is suffering and who may need support. PFA involves the following themes: • providing practical care and support, which does not intrude; • assessing needs and concerns; • helping people to address basic needs (for example, food and water, information); • listening to people, but not pressuring them to talk; • comforting people and helping them to feel calm; • helping people connect to information, services and social supports; • protecting people from further harm.” (Psychological First Aid, WHO et al., p. 3; PFA Pocket Guide below is from the same source)
1. Psychological and Mental Health First Aid for All (2016). World Federation for Mental Health. This 64-page resource packet was just released in advance of the 25th World Mental Health Day (10 October—click HERE for a list of the 25 themes since 1992). “Our aim is that every member of the general public can: • Learn how to provide basic psychological and mental health first aid so that they can provide support to distressed individuals in the same way as they do in physical health crises • Address the stigma associated with mental ill-health so that dignity is promoted and respected • Empower people to take action to promote mental health • Spread understanding of the equal importance of mental and physical health and their integration in care and treatment • …[Work] with individuals and institutions to develop best practice in psychological and mental health first aid • …[Provide] culturally sensitive learning materials to increase the skills of the general public in administering psychological and mental health first aid.” (Introduction, p. 4).
--See the newly updated Integrating Gender–Based Violence Guidelines into Humanitarian Action: Reducing Risk, Promoting Resilience, and Aiding Recovery (2015), Inter-Agency Standing Committee. “Gender-based violence is among the greatest protection challenges individuals, families and communities face during humanitarian emergencies. Accounts of horrific sexual violence in conflict situations—especially against women and girls—have captured public attention in recent years. These violations and less recognized forms of gender-based violence—intimate partner violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation—are also being committed with disturbing frequency. Natural disasters and other emergencies exacerbate the violence and diminish means of protection. And gender-based violence not only violates and traumatizes its survivors, it also undermines the resilience of their societies, making it harder to recover and rebuild….These Guidelines provide practical guidance and effective tools for humanitarians and communities to coordinate, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate essential actions for the prevention and mitigation of gender-based violence, throughout all stages of humanitarian response—from preparedness to recovery. (Foreword, p. iii)
Note: The Health section includes mental health and psychosocial support approaches (MHPSS) including psychological first aid (p.150). We are also not in agreement with a few of the perspectives in these Guidelines regarding reproductive health/rights.
2. Psychological First Aid: Guide for Field Workers (2011, in 19 languages). World Health Organization, World Vision, War Trauma Foundation. This is one of the most widely used PFA guides. The language is simple with simple illustrations and overall it is very well organized. “This guide covers psychological first aid which involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings suffering serious crisis events. It is written for people in a position to help others who have experienced an extremely distressing event. It gives a framework for supporting people in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities. Despite its name, psychological first aid covers both social and psychological support.” (Foreword, p. ii)
--See Psychological First Aid: Facilitator’s Manual for Orienting Field Workers (2013). World Health Organization, World Vision, War Trauma Foundation. “This manual is designed to orient helpers to offer psychological first aid (PFA) to people following a serious crisis event…[It] is to be used together with the Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers...” (p.2)
--See the Database on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support-Related Courses (accessed from MHPSS Network website).
Doing Member Care Well
"Ah, woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain;
I am weary with my groaning and have found no rest.”
(Jeremiah 45:3, NASB)
Life does not always work according to our best practice models. Likewise our best efforts for providing a flow of care, including psychological first aid and crisis support, can only go so far. We must remember that God is sovereign over any member care model or approach. His purposes in history often take precedent over our own personal desires for stability and order in our lives (Jeremiah 45:1-5). And this is frequently the case of mission/aid workers, where hardship, disappointment, and unexpected events have historically been part of the job description.
Irrespective of the struggles and strains of life—and of mission/aid life in particular—we know that there is still much joy in Jesus! Joy and pain are not mutually exclusive. Joy is refined by, and often flows from, life’s challenges and pains.
Member care is important not because mission/aid workers necessarily have more or unique stress, but rather because they are strategic. They are key sources of blessing for the unreached. Member care is also important because it embodies the Biblical commands to love one another. Such love is a cornerstone for mission/aid strategy. In so doing people will know that we are His serious followers.
Adapted from Going Global: A Member Care Model for Best Practice, in Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from Around the World (2002).