Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Psychological first aid training for grassroots leaders and volunteers in fight against terror

Overcoming trauma of terror attack
Grassroots leaders, volunteers will be taught psychological first aid in new move
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2017

Grassroots leaders and volunteers across Singapore will be trained in psychological first aid, to help residents overcome the shock and mental distress following a terror strike.

Psychologists and counsellors from the newly formed Human Emergency Assistance and Response Teams will teach community responders how to identify and support those suffering from psychological trauma after an attack.

These professionals from the Home Team, Ministry of Social and Family Development and Institute of Mental Health will train responders from all 89 constituencies, to ensure each area can support affected residents and their families.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the initiative yesterday at an event in Teck Ghee to raise awareness about SGSecure, the national movement to increase the public's preparedness and resilience in the fight against terror.

Recent terror-related incidents in the region show the threat is serious, Mr Lee said, calling on Singaporeans to strengthen community bonds to minimise the repercussions of an attack. Terrorists would aim not just to hurt people, but also to divide Singaporeans, he said.

That is why Singaporeans should get to know their neighbours and make friends with people of other races. Every little act counts, he added, from holding the lift door open to offering snacks to others.

"The stronger our kampung spirit, the less able the terrorists will be to break us," said Mr Lee at Emergency Preparedness Day in his Teck Ghee ward, organised as part of the SGSecure outreach to neighbourhoods.

He encouraged residents to acquire life-saving skills such as using automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which have been installed at 55 housing blocks in Teck Ghee. The Government aims to install one AED for every two blocks islandwide eventually.

General manager Chong Hwa Heng, 48, was among the residents who learnt how to use an AED yesterday. "It's good to be prepared just in case of emergencies, you never know when you might need to use this skill," he said.

Mr Lee also urged residents to download the SGSecure mobile application, which has been updated with new features. The app can now provide users with customised alerts on emergency incidents occurring in specific locations in Singapore - such as office buildings, shopping malls or residential blocks - by keying in the relevant postal codes. This will inform subscribers of any emergency situation near the specified location.

It will also send subscribers news alerts on terror incidents in specific regions that Singaporeans have key interests in, for instance South-east Asia, East Asia and Europe.

Financial administration officer Iliya Shazni, 29, tried the improved app, and said he will use it to keep track of incidents near his home, his mother's workplace, and his younger sister's school. "It'll give me better peace of mind knowing that I'll be informed should any danger arise near them," he said.

Mr Lee also joined residents in viewing an exercise where "terrorists" attacked coffee shop patrons with firearms. It showed residents running for cover, assisting casualties, and calling the police, which dispatched their emergency response teams to take out the threat.

With the terror threat at a high level, the Government has stepped up its outreach to raise awareness and prepare residents to respond effectively in the event of an attack.

Community volunteers and Home Team officers have visited more than 50,000 households since the official launch of the SGSecure movement last September.

The authorities plan to engage schools and workplaces next.

'Heart' training kicks in when crisis hits
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2017

It is a regular weekend at home for Mr and Mrs Lin, until an explosion at a block rocks their estate.

Panicking, they try to contact their son Harry, who occasionally skateboards near the block with his friends. But Harry does not answer his phone.

This scenario was one of several posed to grassroots leaders from Ang Mo Kio GRC during their first training session in psychological first aid on March 12.

"They will be the first responders when a terror attack happens in an estate, said Dr Majeed Khader, 50, chief psychologist at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

During the five-hour course, professional psychologists from the newly formed Human Emergency Assistance and Response Teams (Heart) taught the volunteers how to stabilise situations after a crisis hits, approach the affected people and identify signs of distress.

In small groups, they also role-played different scenarios after a terror attack, and discussed ways to minimise its impact.

In the case of the Lins, where the situation is likely to be chaotic, community responders trained in psychological first aid can move in to assure the family that help is at hand.

Senior psychologist Andrew Neo, 36, who helped to train the Ang Mo Kio group, said: "You want to acknowledge their anxiety and point them to the right avenues for help. But you should not over-promise or exaggerate what you can do, for instance, promising them that their son will be fine."

The training comes under the national SGSecure movement, which aims to prepare Singaporeans to deal with a terrorist attack.

The group of 60 community leaders is among the first batch of volunteers to receive training in psychological first aid.

In time, responders from all 89 constituencies will be trained.

Dr Majeed, who leads the Heart initiative, said community leaders will be taught to practise the "3Ls" - look, link and listen.

This means looking out for people who are affected by the crisis, who may or may not display symptoms; listening to what people are saying; and linking them to professional agencies that can offer more support.

The volunteers also have to be aware of the various religious and cultural differences, especially in bereavement practices, he added.

Lawyer Sathinathan, a long-time grassroots leader who attended the training, said the feeling of uneasiness can spread quickly within a community. "And with social media, misinformation can spread very quickly. Our role is to be there, calm the affected residents, and lead them to proper channels of information," said Mr Sathinathan, who goes by one name.

Business analyst and grassroots leader Ang Kim Long, 36, said community responders also have to think about the best way to reach out to the affected people.

"Some people might be very guarded after something bad has just happened to them. It might be useful to reach out to them through their neighbours, or someone they are familiar with in the community," he said.


Teck Ghee Residents Move from Awareness to Preparedness at their Emergency Preparedness Day -19 Mar 2017
SGSecure: Adding HEART to Emergency Preparedness
London terror attack: MP tried to save cop's life; ordinary people rushed to help others

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