Develop your own psychological first aid skills so you know how to help a colleague in need of support.

First, understand what it is and what it is not. 

What it is:  What it is not: 
  •  Gather information about the situation through active listening
  •  Critical Incident Debriefing
  •  Validating, acknowledging emotions
  •  Counseling
  •  Promoting natural coping skills
  •  Psychotherapy
  •  Referring to ongoing emotional support services
  •  Mental Health Treatment

For a simple and brief intervention, use the three Fs: Facts, Feelings and Future

1.  Facts

  • Allow the person to describe what happened from their point of view.

2.  Feelings

  • Let them know it’s normal to find their thoughts preoccupied by strong feelings or to experience powerful feelings after a distressing experience.
  • Be empathetic and provide a safe opportunity for the person to share their thoughts and feelings.

3. Future

  • Inform the person they might experience more reactions to the event in the following hours or days.
    • Some examples are loss of appetite, interrupted sleep, distractedness, irritability, difficulty with decision-making, jitters and shakes, physical and emotional exhaustion.
    • Some reactions might feel more powerful and some less; all are usually short-lived.

  • Encourage self-care.
    • Exercise, hydration, nutrition, contact with loved ones, activities that lead to peace or a sense of having nurtured one’s self.

  • You may also recommend they talk to someone else who understands what it’s like to work in their role, not to figure out if the right things were done, but to be reminded that sometimes everyone feels a bit overwhelmed.

  • Invite them to make a specific plan for how they will care for themselves. 
    • What will they do between now and the end of the workday? 
    • What will they do during the hours between work and sleep


Psychological first aid