We all have heard about medical first-aid but have you heard about ‘Psychological first-aid‘?
On October 10, world celebrates Mental Health Day. World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared mental health as a priority and much has to be done in the field. According to WHO estimate, around 38.1 million people in India by 2025 will have some form of mental illness which includes depression, schizophrenia, high level of stress and anxiety. Despite that, it is highly alarming how hardly any emphasis has been given to educate the masses about the same. However, you, me and everyone can contribute to help people in distress through right intervention at right time using psychological first-aid.
The ‘Psychological first-aid’ has a three-tier approach which includes prevention, clinical support and rehabilitation.
“It is just like the normal first-aid. Under this process, people are trained how to deal with individuals who are depressed, traumatized, suicidal or suffer from a high level of anxiety. They are given tools to help another person like listening to problems of people in distress, being patient and sensitive with them amongst other things,” Dr Nand Kumar, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told TYNews.
The first-aid aims to save people in distress from further damage by providing practical help and puts focus on collective duty of individuals towards society.
“Many a times, even if people want to help, they don’t know how to do it. Suppose, if a person is shouting on road, what will you do? By being sensitive towards one’s condition, one can help a person,”Dr Sujata Sharma, Psychologist
at AIIMS, told TYNews. She adds that such intervention can help reduce crime rates, benefit economic growth – considering a sane society is always more productive – and overall improve our country’s outlook towards mental health.
It can be given by anyone, not necessarily a professional.
“Earlier, we use to have big families, So, it was easier to get support. With more nuclear families, the need for professional help for psychological stress has gone up. However, the best thing about psychological first-aid is that it can be given by anyone a friend, a family member , a colleague or a stranger with some knowledge,” Dr Kumar said.
Besides stressing on the need for PFA, experts emphasise on the equal necessity to destigmatize mental health.
“When we get physical injury, we rush to doctor immediately. However, this isn’t the case with mental health. People are ashamed of telling others about it. Also, individuals think that if our mind or thought process is affected, our whole body will suffer and hence, they are afraid to face the reality. So, they avoid seeking professional help,” explains Dr Sharma.
By having a conversation, understanding it in a scientific way and logically answering queries; people’s attitude towards mental health can be shifted in a positive direction.
“When we are dealing with problems related to mind, we have to change people’s thought, perception and emotions regarding the same. There is a need to psycho-educate the people about it. Explain the people about mental health from biological point of view, analyse the problems and help them understand the concept of a healthy mind,” said Dr Sharma. She added that by adopting a simple measure like mentioning of a psychiatrist number on your list of doctors will help bring the needed change.