How to give psychological first aid

How to give psychological first aid

Infographic Text: How to Give Psychological First Aid

After a natural disaster or terrorist attack, there will probably be many people at risk. If you want to provide emergency psychological support to survivors, remember ASSIST:

Approaching the individual.

  • Introduce yourself and state any organization with which you can connect.
  • Be polite and professional- remember to say please and thank you.
  • Find a safe, private place to talk if possible.

Stabilize their feelings.

  • Communicate in a calm, warm tone. The person may be in shock, so you may need to repeat it occasionally.
  • Offer to guide them through some grounding exercises, such as taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Ask for permission before hugging or touching them.

Serve their needs.

  • Ask the person what they need. Don't assume what their priorities are.
  • If they don't know what they need, offer practical support such as a blanket or water.
  • Help them find missing family members or friends.

Tell them about the facts.

  • Give them specific information about the incident and any ongoing relief efforts.
  • Do not make false promises. Avoid generalizations like "everything will be alright".
  • Be honest if you don't know the answer to a question.

Support their story.

  • Respect the person's privacy. Don't force them to talk about their trauma or share personal information.
  • Allow the person to delegate whatever spiritual or religious significance he or she desires in the face of judgment.
  • Let them cry or silence if needed.

Turn them over for further services.

  • Immediate survivors at the nearest relief station. Do not push them if they are not ready to move yet.
  • Provide written contact information for long-term services such as trauma counseling.
  • Remember that children may need extra direction and care.

Bibliographical references:

  1. About PFA. (n.d.). The National Traumatic Tone Network for Children. Retrieved from
  2. Psychological first aid for first responders [PDF]. (n.d.). SAMHSA. Retrieved from
  3. Snider, L., van Ommeren, M. & Schafer, A. (N.d.). Psychological first aid: A guide for field workers. Retrieved from

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