BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) last Friday launched the virtual course in psychological first aid in disaster management in the Caribbean. The course aims to equip volunteers, first responders and persons in the community with the skills to provide the initial response to people experiencing psychological distress after a crisis.
“Caribbean people are threatened every year by major storms and disasters. This virtual course is made to provide everyone who wants to be active and help, with the necessary psychological skills to support people in the community and care for themselves as well,” said Dr Maria Ziegler, CDB’s operations officer for gender and development. “After a disaster, it is not only about building back better. The CDB is proud to be joining forces with PAHO to build resilience so that people are better prepared and can better cope tomorrow.”
The ten-hour, self-learning course is available free of cost on the Caribbean node of PAHO’s virtual campus for public health at www.campusvirtualsp.org. It covers understanding and providing psychological first aid, how to help responsibly, identifying people who need special attention, caring for self and colleagues, and practicing psychological skills. Psychological first aid is a humane, supportive response to a fellow human being who is in need of support that everyone trained can provide.
Dr Elisa Prieto, advisor, non-communicable diseases and mental health, of the PAHO Caribbean subregional office, explained that this free virtual course is designed to help communities who go through these events with their long-term recovery. “We wanted to offer a proven tool to support volunteers, first responders and community leaders in helping affected persons to feel safe, connected, calm and hopeful, with access to social, physical and emotional support and to feel capable of helping themselves and their communities in the aftermath,” she said.
Upon finalisation of the training and final exam, participants receive a course completion certificate, issued by PAHO and CDB. Disseminating the principles of psychological first aid is at the core of the CDB/PAHO campaign “Stronger Together”, which will run until the end of November 2019.
The campaign tackles the stigma associated with seeking mental health and psychosocial support and puts a special focus on vulnerable people, such as children and adolescents, women, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.
In addition, the gender-sensitive campaign addresses issues related to the different roles that men and women have in the family and the community, a possible rise in gender-based violence following disasters, and gender differences when accessing health services.
Campaign materials can be found at www.paho.org/spc-crb/stronger-together and include an illustrated booklet; public service announcements for video and radio; video testimonials, and a radio jingle broadcast across the Caribbean Region.
The campaign is part of a PAHO and CBD initiative to build capacity for mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management in the Caribbean. The project has also set up a roster of mental health professionals from which PAHO and CDB can mobilise resources to affected countries in an emergency.