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Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness


Psychological First Aid (PFA)

A full-scale public health response to disasters must attend to both the physical and mental health needs of affected groups. The latter set of needs is especially important because most authorities agree that far more individuals will report psychologically-related complaints than will report physical symptoms directly stemming from the injury-causing agent or event. Because a large-scale emergency will overwhelm existing mental health response resources, psychological first aid—the provision of basic psychological care in the short-term aftermath of a traumatic event— is an important skill set that all public health workers should possess.

Johns Hopkins Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center Psychological First Aid workshop is a six-hour, interactive, face-to-face training that provides public health professionals without former mental health education with the concepts and skills associated with PFA. Utilizing the RAPID model (Reflective Listening, Assessment, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition), this specialized training provides health professionals who may be asked, or might volunteer, to respond in times of emergency with perspective on injuries and trauma that are beyond those that are physical in nature. Additionally, the model is readily applicable to public health settings, the workplace, the military, mass disaster venues, and even the demands of more well circumscribed critical incidents, e.g., dealing with the psychological aftermath of accidents, robberies, suicide, homicide, or community violence.

Specific topics:

  • Basic communication techniques for PFA
  • Recognition of basic human needs—The Maslovian Hierarchy
  • Human resiliency: The Johns Hopkins Model
  • Common mild psychological and behavioral reactions after a disaster
  • Severe, potentially incapacitating psychological and behavioral reactions after a disaster
  • Basic stress management for disaster survivors
  • A word of caution: reducing risk of adverse outcome
  • When to refer for further mental health support
  • Self-care for disaster workers

For more information on this training, or to schedule this training at your agency, please contact the Center at 443-287-6735 or

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