17 April 2009
As British Red Cross volunteers strive to help thousands of people in crisis each year, the organisation is introducing an innovative new programme for providing psychosocial support.
Layton Thompson/British Red Cross
Psychosocial support training, which focuses on attending to the emotional and practical needs of people in crisis, is already included in all Red Cross first aid courses and services. But the new CALMER framework – including new elements such as risk assessment and diversity – will enable volunteers to help people even more effectively.
Dr Sarah Davidson, psychosocial advisor to the British Red Cross, said: “First aid is more than bandages; research suggests that psychosocial support is key in supporting the recovery of those in crisis. As well as helping people to cope, psychosocial support promotes trust and can reduce anxiety and pain.”
Listening and talking
The CALMER approach was exemplified recently when volunteer Dawn Morville was visited by a distressed woman at a British Red Cross office in the North West of England.
Dawn recalled: “The woman told me she had left her family home after a violent incident, so I listened and talked things over with her. She told me she had tried to commit suicide and felt she had nowhere to stay. Also, she didn’t want to go home as she thought she had let everyone down.
“I gave the lady the numbers for Women’s Aid and Homeless Action, and suggested she contact the mental health team at the local hospital. She agreed that might be helpful and went along.
“In January, she called in again to say she had been in hospital since the day we had met, receiving help for severe depression. She wanted to thank us for helping her, and said she was back in contact with her family. I was so pleased to learn the action I’d taken had helped in some way.”
Now the Red Cross’ pioneering work to address the psychosocial needs of those caught up in emergencies has resulted in a £5,000 award from the British Psychological Society.
Dr Davidson added: “We’re delighted at this recognition from an organisation as well respected as the British Psychological Society. This grant is great news as it will enable us to continue to expand our psychosocial support work in the UK and internationally.”
Read the teachers’ briefing on psychosocial support
Find out about first aid training
Become a first aid volunteer