The Psychological Bandage

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, shares advice and resources on how to manage your mental health in lockdown. This week, Carolyn explores Psychological First Aid (PFA).

The Covid 19 pandemic is affecting many of us in unexpected ways. In the responses to the survey we circulated during May, a number of people expressed concern about neighbours, friends or family members who have been distressed for various reasons. There’s extensive research evidence of the psychological impact of quarantine, disasters and ongoing stressors such as finances or housing. With Covid 19, we have all three. Certain groups can be identified as most at risk – frontline staff, high risk groups such as people with health conditions, disabilities, caring responsibilities, experience of domestic violence and so on. But many of those not ‘at risk’ will also experience unexpected periods of psychological distress.

So how can we equip ourselves to help others in distress?

Think of how we use first aid to help with injuries or illness. There’s common sense and then there’s training that anyone might do to equip them better to handle situations, understanding CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for example.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) works on a similar basis – applying a psychological bandage. It’s intended to achieve 3 things – to prevent distress from worsening, to calm or de-escalate acute distress, and facilitate access to additional support if necessary. It doesn’t involve any kind of diagnosis or treatment, but some basic training is really helpful and reduces the risk of inadvertently making thing worse.

The World Health Organisation has worked with all kinds of crises and disasters around the world and say that:

People do better over the long term if they

  • Feel safe, connected to others, calm & hopeful

  • Have access to social, physical & emotional support

  • Regain a sense of control by being able to help themselves

If you’re interested in finding out more about Psychological First Aid, this online training course is available free via Future Learn. This course has been produced by Public Health England and is based on international guidance from the World Health Organisation, United Nations and partners.

Click here to view the Psychological First Aid course

If you’re feeling worried or anxious yourself, you might want to take a look at the Working Through Worry course available via our free Mental Wealth Academy Summer Online programme, and starting [this] week – see below to access the link to more details and how to sign up.

We recognise that this has been an incredibly challenging time, coping with sudden and dramatic changes in our lives, intense feelings, anxiety about the future, loss of contact with loved ones, experience of illness and bereavement.

At the Good Mental Health Cooperative, we believe that connecting with others, and informal arts and wellbeing learning activities, are really important ways to take care of our mental health, and build the emotional resilience we need to get though these difficult times.

The programme takes place mainly through July and August, and includes the following:

  • Weekly livestreamed ChitChat Cafe meetings on Facebook
  • Twice weekly 30 minute live mindfulness sessions
  • Journal writing course – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live arts and wellbeing workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live Embodiment Through Movement workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Discover Yourself – self development course – 7 weekly sessions
  • Working Through Worry – 7 weekly sessions
  • Two Mental Wealth Trialogue live discussion events

Full details about the programme and how to register your interest are available on this link.


Each week in this series we’ll be sharing a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid-19 crisis.

This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine. 

We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out. 

Click here for Resources for Resilience

This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

 Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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