Men­tal first-aid shared abroad

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

TEL AVIV, Is­rael — An Is­raeli who de­vel­oped an un­ortho­dox model for treating men­tal trauma and pre­vent­ing post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der dur­ing his years in the mil­i­tary is now shar­ing it with first re­spon­ders in other coun­tries.

Moshe Farchi says Is­rael’s decades of con­flict have af­forded it “lots of ex­pe­ri­ence” in deal­ing with trauma, lead­ing to ef­fec­tive and science-based mod­els of work.

“We made many mis­takes and are learn­ing from them,” the head of stress, trauma and re­silience stud­ies at Is­rael’s Tel-Hai Col­lege said.

Farchi’s model was de­vel­oped dur­ing his years in the army, where he served as a men­tal health of­fi­cer.

He saw short­com­ings in such treat­ment be­cause it “failed to re­duce the el­e­ment of anx­i­ety and per­cep­tion of the event as trau­matic”.

Farchi, a clin­i­cal so­cial worker by train­ing, also uti­lized his ex­pe­ri­ence as a vol­un­teer in emer­gency med­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions.

His prin­ci­ples are sim­ple, eas­ily ap­pli­ca­ble and, to the lay­man, pos­si­bly coun­ter­in­tu­itive.

They are em­ployed in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of a trau­matic event such as an at­tack, serv­ing as men­tal first-aid.

“One thinks that a per­son in dis­tress should be con­tained, held,” he said.

But pro­vid­ing emo­tional sup­port ac­ti­vates the re­cip­i­ent’s emo­tional part of the brain at the ex­pense of the area re­spon­si­ble for the abil­ity to think and make de­ci­sions, he said.

“The op­po­site of help­less­ness is ef­fec­tive ac­tion. That’s why first of all we need to ac­ti­vate the per­son, to di­min­ish the help­less­ness,” he said.

Ac­ti­vat­ing the per­son in­cludes ask­ing con­crete and fac­tual ques­tions, giv­ing him or her the abil­ity to make de­ci­sions — ini­tially easy ones, such as if they want to drink a glass of wa­ter or take a break.

Farchi has taken his method to the Bri­tish city of Manch­ester, where a sui­cide bomb­ing killed 22 and wounded more than 100 in May.

There are plans for it to be em­ployed in Ger­many, the Philip­pines and Ar­gentina.

A key as­pect of Farchi’s method is that it should not be re­served for pro­fes­sion­als, but spread to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

Closer to home, the 2014 con­flict be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tinian mil­i­tants in the Gaza Strip was an op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine Farchi’s method.

Res­i­dents in Ofakim, an Is­raeli town that was sub­ject to rocket fire from Gaza, un­der­went Farchi’s in­ter­ven­tion, show­ing no signs of PTSD in the months fol­low­ing the war, Farchi said.

“The chance that a per­son (ex­pe­ri­enc­ing trauma) will be next to a pro­fes­sional is very small, but that a lay­man will be next to him is very high,” Farchi said.

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