What is psychological first aid and how can it help?

In uncertain times, many people feel shaken, anxious, or unsettled. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Thankfully, there are various ways to stay healthy and/or cope while feeling these emotions, including psychological first aid (PFA).

What is PFA?

According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), PFA is “an evidence-informed approach that is built on the concept of human resilience. PFA aims to reduce stress symptoms and assist in a healthy recovery following a traumatic event, natural disaster, public health emergency, or even a personal crisis.”

Just as we use physical first aid for cuts and scrapes, PFA is used to “reduce the painful range of emotions and responses” of those under stress. This strategy is not the same as counseling but uses skills people already have. PFA can help everyone and can be used at any time or in any setting.

How can it help?

MDH identifies five goals of PFA: 1) safety, 2) calm and comfort, 3) connectedness, 4) self-empowerment, and 5) hope. Through addressing needs through a comforting presence and providing education, people can learn support skills, find support networks, and access professional services if needed.

Emotional stress isn’t always easy to identify, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Common signs of emotional stress include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Physical pain
  • Shaken religious faith
  • Sleep problems
  • Shock
  • Withdrawal

Learning more about PFA is a helpful way to recognize and cope with stress. Discovering how to manage stress does not have to be overwhelming and can empower you to stay healthy. If you think you would benefit from PFA, learn more from MDH or visit this interactive tutorial.

Topics: Featured

Amy Weiss

Written by Amy Weiss

Walker Methodist storyteller and marketing assistant

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