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Psychologist: Mental First Aid Should Be Incorporated Into Resilience Plans

02/16/2012 -

WASHINGTON -- First aid provided to victims of a disaster, whether natural or manmade, has a lasting impact on the time it will take for victims to recover after an event.

Just as immediate medical care can mean the difference between future complications and a swift recovery after an injury, immediate psychological first aid can mean the mean the difference in the time it takes for a company’s employees to psychologically heal after the event.

Disaster recovery and resilience operations often focus on supply chain operations, infrastructure, information technology, and financial security, but without personnel, these operations can’t function.

Plans to address the psychological well-being of employees should be a part of an organization’s resilience plan, says Vivian Marinelli, licensed psychologist and senior director of Crisis Management Services forFEI Behavioral Health. Marinelli presented on the human element of resilience planning at a Mid-Atlantic Disaster Recovery Association meeting on Thursday. FEI helps companies set up “psychological first aid stations” to help start the recovery process immediately after a traumatic event.

Traumatic events can alter a person’s perception of the world, Marinelli said. People are creatures of habit and routine, common characteristics of most workplaces. Traumatic events can make people involved feel like they’ve lost control of that. The purpose of psychological first aid stations it to get people back on the path to normalcy as soon as possible.

“After an evacuation [or a traumatic event], people don’t feel safe, so a simple way to give them some control is to ask them a question because you’re trying to jumpstart their brain again. You’re giving them some decisions to make,” she said. “That in itself helps them to start regain control.”

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