During Time of Trauma – What is Psychological First Aid?

first aid

During Time of Trauma – What is Psychological First Aid?

During a very difficult time for our nation we have seen thousands impacted by the bushfire crisis that took over Australia. We will see the ongoing effects of these fires for years to come, both physically and mentally, and we will soon be working with the mental trauma the fires have created.

This poses the question – how can we help during times of emergency or crisis? The answer is Psychological First Aid. 

Understanding the principle of Psychological First Aid can give you the tools you need to greatly support any individual going through a period of uncertainty.

What is Psychological First Aid?

Psychological first aid is the supportive response to others who is suffering and who may need support. The essential principles involve helping people to feel safe, connected to others, calm and hopeful, access physical, emotional and social support, and feel able to help themselves.

Alongside this, good ‘first aid’ helps to reduce initial distress, meet current needs, promote flexible coping and encourage adjustment.

When is Psychological First Aid administered?

When there is a sudden, disruptive emergency – people will be exposed to uncertainty and stress. People will experience different degrees of distress and this is when they should have access to psychological first aid, where possible. Distress can affect anyone, including adults, adolescents and children, as well as disaster relief workers and first responders.

How people respond and cope depends on a variety of factors, including their experience of the emergency, their health, their personal history and their available supports.

How can I help someone during an emergency?

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests we follow three key actions:  view and safely enter an emergency situation (LOOK) in order to understand the needs of affected people (LISTEN) and link them with the information and practical support they need (LINK).

Let’s break this down further:


  • Check for safety.

  • Check for people with obvious urgent basic needs.

  • Check for people with serious distress reactions.


  • Approach people who may need support.

  • Ask about people’s needs and concerns.

  • Listen to people and help them to feel calm.


  • Help people address basic needs and access services.

  • Help people cope with problems.

  • Give information.

  • Connect people with loved ones and social support.


Each situation will differ greatly and will need a different response accordingly. We would greatly suggest understanding the core principles and actions before taking any steps to support others. Click here to read a thorough guide. 


Final Thoughts

Times of risk and uncertainly an affect us all in a multitude of different ways and we can all react differently. Some people will need much more support than psychological first aid. Know your limits and ask for help from others who can provide medical or other assistance to avert a crisis.


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