JIS News

A number of emergency personnel, who respond to traumatic situations, particularly major disasters, on Tuesday, March 19, benefited from training in Psychological First Aid (PFA).

The workshop, hosted by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), examined practical ways in which responders can provide emotional and mental support.

Participants included community health aides, psychology students, representatives of the Ministries of Health and Education, non-governmental organisations, and social workers.

Director of Mental Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons Morgan, said that adverse events can act as a trigger for a maelstrom of psychological events, and leave persons petrified and hopeless.

She noted that in these situations, health care professionals are called upon to find creative solutions, to help families and friends to cope, even with limited resources.

Dr. Irons Morgan stated that with Jamaica facing hurricane seasons that feature between nine and 13 named storms per year, the training will enable first line responders, mental health professionals, and those working with vulnerable populations “to be better equipped to help mitigate the psychological effect of a (Hurricane) Sandy, or a Gilbert, or a Hurricane Dean.”

Among the areas examined during the workshop were: the place of PFA in the overall response; key resilience factors; frequent needs of survivors; good communication skills; people, who need special attention; caring for yourself and team members; and crisis events.

PFA is described as a humane, supportive response to a fellow human being, who is suffering and may need support.

It involves: providing practical care and support, which does not intrude; assessing needs and concerns; helping people to address basic needs; 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; and protecting them from further harm.

By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter