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What is psychological first aid? | Doctors Without Borders

Psychological first aid is provided to people experiencing acute distress after a traumatic event, helping them cope with shock, panic attacks, confusion and changes in appetite and sleep patterns, among other things. “It’s a simple workout that anyone can do,” says Dr. Bashar Ghassan, a psychiatrist with Doctors Without Borders in Jordan. The goal is to stabilize the person; provide a safe space; ensuring access to food, shelter, water and medicine as needed; and link them to social support.

Who benefits from psychological first aid?

MSF teams provide psychological first aid in various contexts, including after the 2023 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, the war in Ukraine and incidents of mass displacement.

In Ukraine, MSF mobile clinic teams provided psychological first aid to survivors of rocket attacks. As people took refuge in Kharkov metro stations in 2022 – many dealing with the loss of family members, friends, homes and plans for the future – MSF teams set up mobile clinics to provide psychological first aid. Dr. Morten Rostrup described the scene:

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