Community-based psychological first aid workshops initiated
By The Star Staff
The Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish initials) has initiated workshops to train and certify community leaders and faith-based organizations as first responders in psychological aid.
ASSMCA Administrator Dr. Carlos Rodríguez Mateo said Tuesday that the workshops began in the towns of San Germán, Añasco, Moca and Isabela so that agency specialists in social work, psychology and professional counseling train participants who can mitigate crisis situations in their communities and channel professional help for prevention and treatment in the face of the daily stressors faced by children, youth, adults and the elderly.
“The purpose of this public policy effort is to train and empower leaders and community members in the area of psychological first aid so that, in the event of unexpected events or situations, everyone can assist and support citizens under the same intervention model, through evidence-based practice,” Rodríguez Mateo said. “It is a prevention project that seeks to ensure that citizens receive the care that is needed to guarantee their integrated well being. It is an effort where we have also integrated municipalities and service agencies to achieve a comprehensive response of prevention and management of crisis situations.”
The ASSMCA chief noted that the training of community leaders in psychological first aid issues is provided in response to the fact that they are the resources who in many instances know firsthand the problems, needs and opportunities that citizens and families have in neighborhoods, urbanizations, housing complexes, schools and other sectors.
So it is a way to create a chain of support, survival and prevention in each municipality of Puerto Rico, where, through the implementation of a training plan, prevention is emphasized and risk factors that arise in communities in the face of unexpected and traumatic events are reduced,” Rodríguez Mateo added.
To train, participants must attend a seven-hour workshop and demonstrate that they have the skills and resilience to provide help to the community and specifically to individuals. The workshop, designed under ASSMCA’s Auxiliary Administration of Prevention and Promotion of Mental Health, is based on the FORPAP Module model, which provides specific tools to channel traumatic events so that trained participants can mitigate crisis situations until such time as they facilitate access to professional help.
FORPAP is based on four main components that are present in the definition of mental health provided by the World Health Organization: be aware of their strengths and use them; develop skills to cope with the stresses of daily living, acquire tools to work productively and fruitfully, and be able to make a contribution to the community.
Once trained and certified, community leaders and faith-based organizations are expected to leverage their personal resources and be able to prevent, manage, and provide primary assistance in events or situations that arise in their communities. In particular, it is hoped that they will be able to support their communities in managing the initial distress caused by traumatic events, encourage short- and long-term adaptive functioning, promote coping skills; facilitate resilience building, provide support to mitigate distress or altered mood, and employ coping and self-care strategies for the affected person.
Other workshops will soon be offered throughout Puerto Rico, including in San Juan, Mayagüez, Yabucoa, Aguadilla and Guánica. For more information and to participate, those interested can contact (787) 763-3133.