Newswise — When news broke of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School this past week, first responders rushed to the scene to secure the site and provide physical first aid. But what about the psychological wounds?
“Just as there is physical first aid for physical injuries, there needs to be psychological first aid for extreme stress and psychological injury,” says George S. Everly Jr., a faculty member in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health and a pioneer in the field of psychological trauma, disaster mental health and resilience.
The problem with providing psychological first aid at crisis scenes, Everly says, is that there are rarely enough mental health professionals readily available to meet the urgent and ongoing emotional needs of the often hundreds of people traumatized in a crisis situation like the one in Parkland, Florida.
Everly has provided psychological first aid to crisis survivors all over the world for more than 40 years including in New York City after 9/11 and Kuwait following the first Gulf War.
Psychological first aid is not therapy. It grew out of a method of crisis intervention, which can be traced to World War I when shell shocked soldiers began being treated while close to the front lines.
While a member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness, Everly developed a model of psychological first aid called RAPID (Reflective listening, Assessment, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition), which is the only theory-driven, research-based approach, which has been validated through his many years of practice.
From his research and field work, Everly co-authored a book on his RAPID model (The Johns Hopkins Guide to Psychological First Aid, JHU Press, 2017), and taught a Coursera course that has been taken by nearly 50,000 people all over the world. He also leads a 2-day RAPID PFA workshop to train non-professionals to help people be resilient in the wake of any highly stressful situation. Anyone can be trained to deliver RAPID PFA, he says, because sometimes all survivors need is a little psychological first aid, someone offering compassion and the ability to really listen to the needs of survivors.
Everly can speak to the necessity and principles of providing psychological treatment in crisis situations.