Throughout the United States, communities celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week from October 2nd-8th. Thanks to the efforts of the World Federation for Mental Health, the global community will unite on October 10th to observe World Mental Health Day. Since 1992, World Mental Health Day raises awareness and reduces stigma about the mental health issues affecting people worldwide. This year’s theme “Dignity in Mental Health: Psychological and Mental Health First Aid For All,” advocates for citizens to learn how to provide psychological and mental health first aid to a person in distress in the same way that they would provide aid for a physical health crisis.
What is psychological first aid (PFA)? According to the World Health Organization, PFA “involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings who have suffered a serious crisis event” (WHO, 2011).
Through PFA, citizens are encouraged to LOOK, LISTEN, & LINK when helping someone who has undergone a traumatic experience. Look, Listen, & Link provides a framework on how to assist in a practical and compassionate manner which emphasizes listening rather than pressuring the affected individual to speak. The Look, Listen, & Link steps includes:
Similar to PFA, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training program that offers basic skills for helping a person experiencing a mental health crisis. However, unlike PFA, MHFA also offers tools to support someone with more chronic mental health issues, or someone who is experiencing the first signs of a mental health challenge.
Regardless of the situation, MHFA recommends offering support, listening without judgement, and providing resources for professional help when assisting a person in need. The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan provides the following steps when helping your loved ones:
Psychological First Aid and Mental Health First Aid have been written about and used in different ways since World War II. At the core, PFA and MHFA seek to provide support to individuals in a dignified manner that respects individual culture and abilities.
To learn more about Mental Health First Aid and find training courses in your area, visit MentalHealthFirstAid.org.