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Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2006 Spring;8(2):93-100.

Principles and practical procedures for acute psychological first aid training for personnel without mental health experience.

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The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA.


Most authorities agree that mass disasters leave in their wake a need for some form of acute mental health services. However, a review of current literature on crisis intervention and disaster mental health reveals differing points of view on the methods that should be employed (Raphael, 1986; NIMH, 2002). Nevertheless, there appears to be virtual universal endorsement, by relevant authorities, of the value of acute "psychological first aid" (American Psychiatric Association, 1954; USDHHS, 2004; Raphael, 1986; NIMH, 2002; Institute of Medicine, 2003; WHO, 2003; DoD/VAPTSD, 2004; Ritchie, et al., 2004; Friedman, Hamblin, Foa, & Charney, 2004). Psychological first aid (PFA), as an acute mental health intervention, seems uniquely applicable to public health settings, the workplace, the military, mass disaster venues, and even the demands of more well circumscribed critical incidents, e.g., dealing with the psychological aftermath of accidents, robberies, suicide, homicide, or community violence. In this document, we shall introduce the notion of psychological first aid (PFA) as one aspect of a psychological continuum of care, offer a rudimentary definition of PFA, and provide the reader with a practicalframework for its implementation utilizing the individual psychological first aid (iPFA)format. The goal of this paper is to better prepare public health, public safety, and other disaster response personnel who do not possess formal clinical mental health degrees or specialized training to provide iPFA services to primary and secondary disaster victims.

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