Mental health: do you know the first aid gestures?

You probably know (at least by name) the first aid gestures, the lateral safety posture, chest compressions or even word of mouth. But did you know that there are also first aid gestures in mental health care? The courses have been around for a few years only In France. What do we learn there? For what types of symptoms? explanation.

What is it about ?

A person trained in first aid will take the first steps to escort a victim before health workers arrive. It’s the same in mental health. “Mental Health First Aid is the assistance given to a person who is experiencing the onset of a mental disorder, a worsening of a mental disorder, or who is in a psychological crisis phase.”we can read on the website of the association PSSM France. “First aid is provided until professional help can be provided, or until the crisis is resolved. †

Introduced in Australia in the early 2000s, this form of first aid did not come to France until 2018, when PSSM France was founded, explains Asso Santé Solène Barriol, coordination assistant and head of communications for the association. The following year the first training sessions were given.

What conditions and symptoms are included in the mental health emergency room?

First aiders trained by various organizations specializing in the subject can act in various mental disorders such as:

  • the Depression
  • anxiety
  • psychosis
  • addiction problems

According to the association PSSM France, first aiders can also act for people suffering from a mental health crisis, such as:

  • suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • panic attacks
  • traumatic events
  • severe states of psychosis
  • serious conditions related to the use of alcohol and toxic substances
  • aggressive behavior

What are the main first aid techniques for mental health?

If becoming a first aider cannot be improvised, some basic principles can already be practiced. Solène Barriol thus shares the approach of the PSSM association: “protect, alert, rescue”. How? ‘Or what? Via the so-called “AERER” method, ie 5 main axes corresponding to the 5 letters of this word:

  • Approach the person
  • Listen actively and without judgment to the person
  • Comfort and inform
  • Encourage the person to go to professionals
  • Learn more about other available resources

However, the specialist specifies: “It doesn’t always work on the first try. Sometimes it takes time to make contact. †

How to react if you witness a crisis?

For Solène Barriol, there is no doubt that you are dealing with a person in a suicidal or psychotic crisis: call for help. “Except in a crisis situation, the training advises against calling the emergency services for someone because there is indeed consent, of respect for the person”she says again. “So outside of a crisis, the idea is to encourage the person to seek treatment, to demystify the idea that we have a consultation with a psychiatrist or a psychologist, because there are still many people who are afraid of being being labeled insane or forcibly hospitalized.”

Still according to the PSSM France association, 16,600 rescue workers identified in France until January 15, 2022, the site reports. That is about 0.02% of the population. The number of trained people is just waiting to increase.

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