Philippine Response Blog

Humanitarian Communications

Psychological First Aid: An Approach to Recovery


Rose Marie Baguios, Health Operations Coordinator, shares her message about PFA to meeting attendees. © Alan Kristofer F. Motus

By John Vergel D. Briones

On March 20, 2015, IOM Roxas’ Health Unit conducted the Final Meeting for the Implementation of Psychological First Aid (PFA) and Psychosocial Support Training for Midwives, Community Leaders and IOM Staff. This activity aimed to consolidate all of the lessons learned and strategize steps forward regarding PFA in the humanitarian context.

As the IOM Roxas Health Unit’s office nears the end of its second phase, 24 PFA trainings have already been employed reaching out to an outstanding total of 150 Community Service Providers and 413 Community Leaders. These activities have been initiated last October 7, 2014 and culminated on December 23 of the same year.

These activities complement the public health response of IOM Roxas which strategically attend to both the physical and mental health needs of the affected populace. With a calamity as intense as Typhoon Haiyan, this scale of emergency overwhelmed the existing mental health response resources, requiring an increase in the capacity of local counterparts especially at the grassroots level.

PFA trainings have been designed to inculcate upon community workers and leaders the skills required to cater to those who have experienced a stressful event, people with life-threatening conditions, people who are unable to perform self-care and care for those who depend on them, people who may have suicidal tendencies and people who are deemed harmful to others.

These can be used to tap into the community’s resilience and aid workers can build on their strengthened mental and psychosocial states to facilitate a more holistic recovery. For IOM Roxas’ area of operations, imparting these skills also plays a part in preparation for future eventualities.

On the Accountability Reports written by all of the IOM Health Teams and led by resident IOM psychologist Leah Jade Alba, it was a general consensus that training recipients expressed their gratitude. Despite the lack of previous knowledge in mental health education, the intensive trainings equipped them with the necessary concepts and skills. These reports also say all of the original objectives have been met, primarily the goal of providing multi-tiered psychosocial services which are at their level.

However, some challenges have been encountered such as the need to cover a wider geographic reach and a higher number of people. To quote a report written by the Health Team in the municipality of Sara, “Inaccessible, remote areas are great challenges as well as areas with security threats.”

One of the recommendations in the said report asks for further in-depth trainings for more barangay leaders as well as further appraisal and evaluation.

Prior to imparting PFA training to key personnel, IOM Roxas Health Staff were the first ones to undergo the said exercise. Rose Marie Baguios, Health Operations Coordinator, says “Before we reach out to help others, we also have to prepare ourselves.”

Leobhe Dillera, one of the IOM nurses who proved crucial in their rollout of the said trainings, says the training recipients have not only shown their gratitude but also stated they have gained skills which could prove useful in several aspects of their daily lives.