WHO recommendations for mental health support in emergencies shared with DoH

Train-the-trainer workshop, Philippines 2013
WHO/Chantal Claravall

MANILA, 16 December 2013 — The World Health Organization shared with the Philippines Department of Health information about a humane, supportive and practical help to people who are suffering after crisis events.

Called psychological first aid, this approach is different from formerly used psychological debriefing – when someone is encouraged to recall the details of a potentially traumatic event. Based on available evidence, experts now agree that psychological first aid is more effective and less intrusive.

Copies of “Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers” are being distributed to agencies working with health, education, social welfare and security.

In addition, WHO and the Department of Health organized a training-of-trainers workshop, which took place in the National Centre for Mental Health, in Mandaluyong City, with the participation of government professionals, professional associations, universities and community agencies.

People are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems during and after emergencies. One month after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, one of WHO’s top health priorities is scaling up mental health and psychosocial support as the country recovers.

"The typhoon will have long-lasting effects," says Dr Julie Hall, the WHO Representative in the country. "We must be prepared to give support to families and communities for the long-term, and we need more trained field workers to do it."

“I’ve been sent to previous disasters before but you could see that this is really something bigger,” says Dr Ronald Law, a DoH disaster mental health specialist. “Psychological first aid is something that we are really trying to disseminate to all health workers. It is a practical and powerful tool.”

“Filipinos, we are very compassionate. So it is kind of cultural for us to be warm to people and aid someone who is seeking help,” explains Dr Criselda Abesamis, Director of the Special Concerns Technical Cluster at DoH. “This makes the approach very conducive for our local context.”

WHO will work with its teams in Tacloban, Cebu, Roxas, Eastern Samar and Ormoc to provide information about psychological first aid to partner organizations, teachers, police and others who can help in crisis situations like the typhoon aftermath.

More information:

For more information, interviews, or to arrange field visits, please contact:

Paulo Lyra
Mobile: +63 915 896 6345,
E-mail: lyrapaul@who.int

Aphaluck Bhatiasevi
mobile: +63 917 490 9757 and +63 947 170 7512,
E-mail: bhatiaseviap@who.int

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