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Open AccessArticle

The Effect of Psychological First Aid Training on Knowledge and Understanding about Psychosocial Support Principles: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

1
Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Research and Dissemination of Psychological Interventions, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2
Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU, UK
3
Department of Counselling Psychology, University of Makeni, Freetown, Makeni PO Box 2, Northern Province, Sierra Leone
4
ARQ International, ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre, 1112 XE Diemen, The Netherlands
5
International Medical Relief Services (IMRES), 8200 AE Lelystad, The Netherlands
6
Amsterdam University Medical Centre, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
7
Department of Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(2), 484; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17020484
Received: 26 November 2019 / Revised: 20 December 2019 / Accepted: 23 December 2019 / Published: 11 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Disaster Mental Health Risk Reduction)
Psychological first aid (PFA) is a world-wide implemented approach to helping people affected by an emergency, disaster, or other adverse event. Controlled evaluations of PFA’s training effects are lacking. We evaluated the effectiveness of a one-day PFA training on the acquisition and retention of knowledge of appropriate responses and skills in the acute aftermath of adversity in Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) in post-Ebola Sierra Leone. Secondary outcomes were professional quality of life, confidence in supporting a distressed person, and professional attitude. PHUs in Sierra Leone (n = 129) were cluster-randomized across PFA (206 participants) and control (202 participants) in March 2017. Knowledge and understanding of psychosocial support principles and skills were measured with a questionnaire and two patient scenarios to which participants described helpful responses. Professional attitude, confidence, and professional quality of life were assessed using self-report instruments. Assessments took place at baseline and at three- and six-months post-baseline. The PFA group had a stronger increase in PFA knowledge and understanding at the post-PFA training assessment (d = 0.50; p < 0.001) and at follow-up (d = 0.43; p = 0.001). In addition, the PFA group showed better responses to the scenarios at six-months follow-up (d = 0.38; p = 0.0002) but not at the post-assessment (d = 0.04; p = 0.26). No overall significant differences were found for professional attitude, confidence, and professional quality of life. In conclusion, PFA training improved acquisition and retention of knowledge and understanding of appropriate psychosocial responses and skills in providing support to individuals exposed to acute adversity. Our data support the use of PFA trainings to strengthen capacity for psychosocial support in contexts of disaster and humanitarian crisis. Future studies should examine the effects of PFA on psychosocial outcomes for people affected by crises. View Full-Text
Keywords: psychological first aid; mental health and psychosocial support; humanitarian assistance; randomized controlled trial; prevention; training classification psychological first aid; mental health and psychosocial support; humanitarian assistance; randomized controlled trial; prevention; training classification
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Sijbrandij, M.; Horn, R.; Esliker, R.; O’May, F.; Reiffers, R.; Ruttenberg, L.; Stam, K.; de Jong, J.; Ager, A. The Effect of Psychological First Aid Training on Knowledge and Understanding about Psychosocial Support Principles: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 484.

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