Ready to provide emotional support
More than 1,400 people, including teachers, trained in psychological first aid
Psychological first aid (PFA) instructor Faiszah Abdul Hamid once taught a trainee who belatedly realised he was making his friend feel worse.
This, even though he was trying to provide emotional support.
“His friend’s mother had passed away. In trying to comfort his friend, he said, ‘Take it easy, what could be worse than this?’, which made the friend even more upset,” said the head of the Red Cross Academy.
The eight-hour PFA course teaches tips and techniques on how to identify someone in distress and to help them feel comforted.
The Singapore Red Cross has trained more than 1,400 people in PFA since the course was launched in 2016, including more than 800 teachers.
Ms Faiszah, 46, said one reason for the increase is more awareness of the importance and relevance of PFA in everyday life.
In March last year, 60 community leaders were among the first batch of volunteers to receive training in PFA under the national SGSecure movement, which aims to prepare Singaporeans to deal with a terrorist attack.
The Red Cross also plans to introduce an advanced two-day PFA course in the second quarter of this year, which will include an assessment and certification of completion.
Ms Faiszah said that knowing PFA allows one to approach a crying stranger to show concern “without sounding ‘kaypoh’ (like a busybody)”.
“If someone is not trained, you might be seen as intrusive and judgmental. But when you have PFA, because you are conscious and aware of how you approach, you will seem more sincere and genuine,” she said.
Teachers who are selected to take PFA are usually part of a team in the school mobilised to help staff and students cope with psychological distress in the event of an incident or emergency, said director of the Guidance Branch at the Student Development Curriculum Division at Ministry of Education Madam Choy Wai Yin.
“(They) also support affected students, monitor their well-being and help strengthen their coping skills,” she added.
Madam Choy said that the course is part of the ministry’s “continuing efforts to strengthen the professional development of teachers”.
PFA instructor Muhamad Haikel Mohamed, 30, said PFA teaches one to recognise some of the signs and symptoms of when someone might be affected and be in need of help.
These might include pacing up and down and sweating excessively.
Ms Jasmine Phua, 32, a Chinese teacher at Compassvale Secondary, said the techniques she learnt have helped students open up to her more, allowing her to understand and guide them better.
“I learnt... we should say things like, ‘I hear you’, and ‘You must be going through a hard time’.”
Ms Faiszah believes there are benefits to continue enlarging the pool of people who can identify those who need help in times of crisis.
“In crisis situations... more people being trained in PFA means a higher chance of emotional support being given in a timely way,” she said.
Head of the Red Cross Academy Faiszah Abdul Hamid.