Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a useful first response to use with employees impacted by a crisis or traumatic event. It is most widely used in the first hours, days and weeks after an event.
PFA is based on an understanding that people affected by a crisis will experience a range of early reactions (physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural) that may interfere with adaptive coping. These reactions are normal and understandable, and their recovery may be helped by the provision of PFA.
Some people may require further support and mental health interventions to facilitate recovery, but many people recover well on their own, or with the support of compassionate and caring disaster responders, family and friends.
Check for people who require support
- Are employees presenting with personal concerns regarding the crisis?
- Are employees demonstrating signs of compromised mental health?
This could include increased absenteeism, presenteeism or performance-related concerns, abnormal emotional outbursts crying/anger.
Approach people who may need support
- Approach employees respectfully and according to cultural norms
- Ask if they require support
- Access a private safe place to talk
Ask about the people’s needs and concerns
- Address any obvious needs, for example, if an employee is crying or angry
- Always ask about their needs and concerns – do not assume you know
- Find out what is most important to them at this moment
- Help them work out what their priorities are
Listen to people and help them to feel calm
- Do not pressure the person to talk
- Listen in the event the employee wants to talk about their personal circumstances
- If they are very distressed, help them to feel calm and try to make sure they are not alone. Connect them with professional support such as your EAP or Lifeline
Help people address basic needs and access services
- Learn what specific needs employees have and try to link them to available assistance
Help people cope with problems
- Help identify their most urgent practical needs (i.e. taking a break, transportation home)
- Help the person identify support people inside and outside of work
- Give practical suggestions for people to meet their own needs (e.g. how to register for community leave if required)
- Find out where to get information and updates pertaining to the crisis
- Try to get as much information as you can before approaching people with support
- Keep informed through Emergency Services updates
Connect people with loved ones and social support
- Help people to contact friends or relatives and stay connected
- Help employees to access professional support if required through your EAP or specific support services offered by the Australian Government