World mental health day; a day devoted to advocate mental health issues and spread awareness about them globally. The initiative to celebrate this day was taken by world federation of mental health in 1992 and October 10th was specified as world mental health day. Since then, every year different themes are taken to celebrate this day and make people aware about various mental health aspects. In 2015 the theme was chosen as “Dignity in mental health” and 2016 has added another dimension to that theme as “Psychological and mental health first aid for all”. The reason to keep this theme is to make people realize that psychological services are open for all and anybody can ask for help. Also, anybody in the community can help others and provide psychological first aid to others. This will enable people to talk more comfortably about mental health issues and it will remove the shadow of stigma and taboos from community.

The thought behind the theme can be clearly understood by the first aids provided in other medical conditions. If the knowledge of basic life support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) without any equipment can save lives then why not doing the same with mental health conditions. The purpose of psychological first aid is to educate people about basic psychological issues and train them to help others who need psychological support.

Why psychological and mental health first aid is important?
According to the fact sheet of WHO (World Health Organisation), reviewed in April 2016, approximately 350 million people are affected by Depression globally. The list continues to indicate 60 million people with bipolar affective disorder, 21 million population with psychosis including schizophrenia and 47.5 million people with dementia worldwide. Data base of WHO also indicates that in low and middle income countries, around 76% to 85% people with mental disorders remain untreated. The condition is same for about 35% to 50% people in high income countries. Also, social support plays an important role in prevention and treatment of mental illnesses but sad part of the condition reveals even if people want to help others they don’t know how to take a step forward.

Who can give psychological and mental health first aid?
Psychological and mental health first aid can be given by anyone who has the knowledge of major psychological issues and basic ways of dealing with them. Mental health professionals can train people around to have more helping hands and save others from slipping into major psychological/psychiatric conditions. Once people are trained to provide psychological first aid they need to maintain the chain and keep educating others. Who knows, the person you are training or educating might be a needy of your first aid.

What a psychological and mental health first aid is?
As mentioned earlier this is not something which only professionals can do. It’s not professional counselling; however, it does require ability to listen others patiently and make them feel understood. It is a supportive response to fellow human beings requiring help and support.
It involves comforting people and helping them to feel calm, helping them to connect to necessary information, services, social and professional supports, protecting people from further harm and worsening of condition. In addition, it requires transformation of knowledge and helping people with due respect and without harming their dignity.

How to know that someone needs psychological and mental health first aid?
People in need of help usually exhibit certain behaviours marked as indicators of psychological/psychiatric illness. These behaviours include sadness of mood, mood swings, social withdrawal, decreasing or leaving enjoyable activities without any reason, excessive use of alcohol and other drugs/substances, unexplained changes in sleeping and eating habits, strange thoughts, increased sensitivity, a drop down in daily functioning ability, emotional outbursts, persistent anxiety and nervousness etc. These are some of the most common signs indicating need for psychological first aid and a person should be immediately provided help if anyone of the listed sign is present without any apparent reason.

You don’t have to be perfect as a help provider or be an encyclopaedia of psychological treatment methods. Even if you have detected someone who need psychological support and referred him to a professional, you have done your job well. Provide psychological and mental health first aid to help seekers maintaining their respect and dignity. Be a helping hand to spread awareness about psychological issues and contribute to the awareness campaign of world mental health day.

If you have any queries related to this article or any other psychological/mental health issue feel free to write me back at info@talktocure.com

Neelam Verma
Consultant Clinical Psychologist

About Talktocure

The access of counselling and psychotherapy by online networking brings happiness straight to you through your computer monitors and your cell phones. Sharing problems has always been found to be helpful for everyone and when you got to help yourself at your most comfort it’s even better. Online counselling and psychotherapy provides help at your maximum ease as you are just a click away from sharing problems and reaching solutions.
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