461 Preliminary Results of Psychological First Aid Capacity Building Program on Coping Strategies and Mental Health Measures Among Emergency Responders in Disaster: Results of 6-Month Follow-up of a Randomized Controlled Trial

Thursday, April 26, 2012
Abay Poster Exhibition and Hall (Millennium Hall)
Eliza YL Cheung Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Emily Y. Y. Chan, MD, SMPIH(Harvard), DFPH, (UK) Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Py Lee Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Yingjia Zhu Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Emergency first responders, including fire fighters, police, auxiliary medical personnel, ambulance officers and rescuers, are often the first to the front line in a disaster witnessing the traumatic scene and experiencing life threatening situations. Whilst responders have to face direct exposure to the intensity of the disaster and may suffer from psychological reactions for overly prolonged time periods, the current crisis intervention protocols after natural or man-made disasters often neglect the psychological impact of crisis on responders. Psychological First Aid (PFA) has become the choice of mental health intervention in the immediate aftermath of disasters by the WHO, Institute of Medicine, National Institute of Mental Health and the SPHERE project. Although being used extensively, few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of PFA and issues with its field applicability. A prospective randomized controlled study was conducted with 900 emergency medical responders recruited from a uniform responder team in Hong Kong. Half of them were randomly assigned to the intervention arm to receive a one-day training of PFA conducted by a clinical psychologist based on the protocol developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2006). Repeated measures of covariance were used to evaluate the efficacy of PFA program in changes in various coping strategies measures. All analyses were conducted on the intent-to-treat and completer groups.  It was found that participants in intervention group reported better mental health and better utilization of different types of coping strategies in times of stress at 6-month follow-up. Preliminary results at 6 months follow up provide empirical evidence on the effectiveness of PFA in enhancing various types of self-reported stress coping capacity of responders. This result supports the capacity building of Chinese emergency workforce in responding mental health needs in disaster and the potential use of PFA as an occupational protective measure for their mental well-being.

Learning Objectives: Describe a capacity building program of training Psychological First Aid among 900 emergency medical responders recruited from a uniform responder team in Hong Kong. Evaluate the capacity building program through a randomized controlled trial. Discuss the potential benefits of the training in terms of a potential occupational protective measure for respondersí mental well-being.