Ready to pro­vide emo­tional sup­port

The New Paper - - NEWS - LIM MIN ZHANG

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.

mzlim@sph.com.sg

PHOTO: WONG LEONG JEAM

Head of the Red Cross Academy Faiszah Ab­dul Hamid.

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