August 2022 — Due to the increasing number of mental health cases in the Philippines, two leaders in the country’s health and personal care industries, PhilCare and Johnson & Johnson Philippines, Inc. (JJPI), are collaborating to make psychological first aid (PFA) accessible to more Filipinos.

“Learning PFA and understanding reactions to crises empowers all of us as helpers,” said Dr. Edgardo Juan Tolentino, former president of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, during the recently held online forum Let’s Talk About Psychological First Aid organized by PhilCare JJPI.

“PFA is not anything far from physical first aid where you put a bandaid on the shallow wound of an individual, but if the wound is deeper and you can’t control the bleeding, you may have to call the ambulance or bring the person to the ER,” Dr. Tolentino.

Through this joint effort, PFA training, facilitated by JJPI, will be incorporated into PhilCare’s Mindscapes program for mental wellness. This allows PhilCare’s mental health professionals to use PFA to treat their patients battling anxiety and depression brought on by the pandemic, economic uncertainties, or personal issues.

Mindscapes provides customizable and scalable programs to companies that wish to support their employees’ mental wellness journey. PhilCare also created three prepaid plans to make mental health counseling more accessible and affordable to Filipinos.

The PFA that PhilCare and JJPI have adopted is the version that the International Red Cross has been using since March 2020. It specifically targets concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and is more of an evidence-informed intervention.

PFA can be helpful to people coping with everyday stress and challenges. These people could include healthcare workers and social welfare responders, COVID-19 survivors, families who just lost a loved one, older adults who feel alone, and those with vulnerabilities like mental health and substance abuse problems.

“The goal of PFA is to provide safety, calm and comfort, and connectedness to a person. As well as to promote self-empowerment by giving them back their sense of control,” Dr. Tolentino.

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