Building mental health and psychosocial support capacity in higher education: psychological first aid training to support displaced Afghan student refugees
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Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab, The New School for Social Research, The New School, New York, United States
The New School for Social Research and The Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab, New York, United States
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1308
Background and Objective: In recent years, a growing number of universities have welcomed refugee students. Given the high levels of Mental Health (MH) stressors associated with displacement, there is a call for institutions to prepare delivery of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS). A growing body of research points to scaleable, non-specialist delivered mh strategies as both effective and a way to build capacity. Specifically, Psychological First Aid (PFA) trains populations to identify and respond to people in distress, while emphasizing self-care and personal resilience. The aim of this study was to adapt and deliver pfa trainings for higher education institutions serving as a home for refugees. Objectives were to train participants in pfa to support Afghan refugees, and to collect data on the perceived efficacy of the training. Methods: A team trained in delivering pfa, held 7 online sessions in fall 2022 across 5 institutions in the US, central Asia and Europe. In total, 50-75 faculty, staff, students, and administrators participated. After the sessions participants rated content of the training, facilitators, perceived understanding of material, and their confidence in assisting individuals in distress. They were then asked qualitative questions regarding their experience of the training. Results: Preliminary results demonstrate trainees felt a high degree of confidence (m=8.6, 0=no confidence, 10=extremely confident) assisting people in distress. 89.5% strongly agreed that co-facilitators communicated the material clearly and concisely. 73.7% agreed that they understood the pfa action principles. 73.7% felt they understood the importance of self-care. Participants offered qualitative feedback demonstrating their enjoyment of and efficacy around pfa, but also identified areas for further adaptation. Conclusions: This preliminary data is evidence for the effectiveness of pfa training in higher education contexts, especially those looking to support student refugees. Further research is needed to understand longer-term competency outcomes after receiving pfa training.
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