First psychological aid in an emergency situation

by Anna Kazakova
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An emergency is an event that is unpleasant, unexpected, causes significant harm, and causes an acute stress reaction. Fire, disaster, terrorist attack, robbery.
People who have experienced a crisis event often experience anxiety, apathy, and numbness. They have a feeling of insecurity and helplessness and experience a loss of control. It is desirable that the person receives the first psychological aid in the first 48 hours after the traumatic event. Then it is less likely that there will be long-term consequences.
The first psychological aid can be rendered by anyone who is nearby, not necessarily a specialist.
I will talk about the basic principles of emergency psychological help, knowing which you can help your loved one, an acquaintance or just the person next to you who has experienced a difficult event.

Take care of yourself.

Make sure you yourself are safe and have enough emotional and physical strength to help someone else. It is important to help yourself so you can better help others.

Make contact.

Let the man know that he is safe and that he is not alone.
Introduce yourself, say who you are. Offer to help, ask what the person needs now.
Try to find a quiet and safe place to talk. Create a comfortable environment: offer tea, water, or a blanket. Tell them it's over, that you're there to help.
If the person is unresponsive, gently place your hand on the victim's shoulder or hold his or her hand. If you can't talk with words, try squeezing the person's hand and ask them to squeeze your hand back. Make that contact first - non-verbal.

A Return to Reality.

Help the person focus on the surrounding reality by asking simple questions. Ask how many people are in the room, what color the wallpaper is, how old they are, where their passport is, what their relative's phone number is.
You can also ask them to rest their feet on the floor or pat their hands on their knees.
This will help you get out of a state of shock, concentrate on the present moment, switch your attention, and feel in control of the situation.


The victim may want to tell you what happened. Listen carefully and sympathetically. Nodding your head and saying, "Yes," "I understand how you feel," "It's really hard," will help to express sympathy.
Ask the person about what happened before and after the event, emphasizing that it's gone and he's safe now.
If a person doesn't want to talk about his experience, you shouldn't force him. Even your silent but attentive presence is supportive. You can say that you are ready to talk when the person wants to.

Encourage action.

Invite the victim to help others, and to take active steps to help himself or herself. Give simple instructions:

  1. Please bring Kolya a glass of water now.
  2. Pack your bag, put your documents and money in it.
  3. Help Katya call her parents.
    An adult can be asked to think about what they need to do right now and what can be put off for later.
    By acting, helping others and oneself, one gets out of a state of helplessness and regains control of the situation.

Help me remember the supports.

Help your acquaintance remember the people who can support him in his situation.
Think together about how a person used to deal with difficult situations. Positive ways of coping with stress include rest; taking care of sleep and nutrition; spending time with friends and family; sharing problems with someone you trust; activities that help you relax: walking, creativity; physical activity; helping others.

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