4 basic principles for providing psychological support in emergencies

At any time, whether we are psychologists or not, we may find ourselves in a situation that requires our intervention. For example, we may encounter a complicated situation in many different situations, such as a traffic accident or an incident during an excursion.

In another article by Psychology and the mind the role of psychology in emergencies and disasters has already been touched upon, and today we’re going to explore some practical keys to helping those in need, whether we are mental health professionals or not.

Humans are social beings and especially in the summer we move from place to place enduring high temperatures and we are more likely to find ourselves in situations where we need to take care and help, to the extent of our means, another person or family who has suffered an incident.

General principles of psychological help

To this end and without wishing to go further, given that the bibliography is abundant, I intend to summarize in four basic principles the keys to providing psychological support to someone in need..

Based on my experience in both the social and health fields, which has involved care in emergencies and emergencies or in other cases in contexts of high emotional stress, there are a number of steps which coincide in all the bibliographical references on emergencies which, I consider, are essential to carry out first aid before the arrival of specialized teams. These premises will act as a guide for you and the people you care for, And will ensure the safety, emotional ventilation and relief of the people we care for.

These principles will follow the pre-established order, and I will continue with an ex post example: the first will be to give an opinion by calling emergencies, they will give us guidelines that will allow us to analyze the situation before approaching and introduce us. . Once we are in front of the people we want to help, we will introduce ourselves and report that we have called for emergencies and that specialist help is alerted and is on its way. Finally, we will listen and facilitate emotional expression by staying by your side until help arrives, if it is within our means.

I will detail each of the steps to make it easier to understand what to do in case someone needs our psychological and emotional support.

1. Give an emergency notice

Obvious, perhaps, but its importance and the need to go to point 1 are totally indisputable.

However, I was surprised to hear stories of people who “hadn’t fallen” when calling the emergency room.. Fortunately, thanks to social media and media awareness, the 112 phone number and other emergency operations are the most well-known and almost everyone is quick to notify emergencies when an accident occurs.

The variety of situations we can encounter is wide: car accidents, floods, fires, the elderly or lonely and disoriented children. We can also witness situations of violence (street, domestic violence, family or other), hear screams or people calling for help, and a long list of others.

Faced with these situations, you should always call the emergency room, And the professionals who will answer your call are those who will assess the seriousness of the situation and the devices to be sent to the area (ambulance, fire brigade, police, etc.). Today, everything is centralized and it only remains to describe what we see during the call.

2. Analyze the situation and approach it with caution

During the emergency call, the operator will make us observe and ask us about the location and the type of situation to find out what is happening.

For example, if someone passes out in front of us, they will ask us if they are conscious, if they are breathing, etc. These same questions will guide us on what will happen next, and the operator herself will give us safety instructions (for example in the event of an accident, she will recommend where to place us to avoid problems) and will inform us of the approximate delay time.

3. Introduce yourself, inform and guide

It is crucial to introduce yourself. Calmly approach the affected person and tell them what our name is, who we are and why we are there. For example: “Hello, my name is Maria. I saw your bike on the road and gave the emergency alert.” And ask him his name, remember that he is a person and that introductions humanize us.

At this point it is essential to inform him of the situation, the misinformation afflicts people who find themselves in such a situation. All you have to do is tell them what they transferred to you when you gave the notice and when it will takeTrying to influence positive language by using terms like “soon” from the victim of the situation, will in itself be very distressed. We can encourage calm with a few sentences such as “I have already notified and the ambulance is already on its way. I was also told it was best not to move, they will be here soon.”

It is important that you control your tone of voice and your non-verbal language; be in their field of vision, with eye contact when they talk to you or speak to you, ask before touching the person if they want you to help them and not invade their living space if they do not give you permission . Your role is not to replace health technicians, it is a question of the person being comfortable and accompanied until then.

Once informed and oriented, we can say something to comfort the injured or in difficulty, as we will wait with them and take an interest in their condition, which would already be phase 4.

4. Listen and facilitate emotional expression

Take an interest in what happened, facilitate their emotional expression and stimulate their dialogue. Just ask and don’t interrupt when he tells you and remains receptive with a state of active listening.

You can, if you feel comfortable at any point, paraphrase / recap to give comments that you understand to situate and alleviate your anxiety, using your own words, for example: “What you are telling me. is that you hit yourself with that shaft on the right side of the bike. ”Even when the technicians leave, paraphrasing will help you remember information to pass on to professionals, If the person is unconscious or too dizzy to speak.

If you are verbalizing or exteriorizing emotional expressions such as crying and embarrassment, you should support that feeling and facilitate its expression, with phrases like “It’s okay to feel like this, you’ve been in an accident, but the ambulance is already there on the way “.

In the meantime, be accessible, apply active listening. If you are receptive, you will even be able to detect and observe needs that you are not verbalizing and facilitate their expression.

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