Psychological First Aid for COVID-19 Frontline Workers in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities

We received funding from UNICEF USA (UUSA) to support the development and dissemination of a culturally adapted Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide and online training course for COVID-19 frontline workers in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. This project allows us to continues work to support mental health in Native communities, an important endeavor that has only become more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a crisis such as this pandemic, the need for mental health support and care often outpaces the availability of services from licensed clinicians and health professionals.

PFA training programs have been used globally in the wake of disaster events and are a promising tool to meet urgent needs for mental health support. The intervention is meant to train frontline workers (e.g., community health workers, health care workers, etc.) and equip them with basic skills to support their own well-being as well as the mental well-being of their co-workers and those they serve.

We are adapting content from a PFA manual developed for frontline workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic globally by the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee. We have engaged a collaborative work group of Indigenous public health, mental health, and frontline workers to steer and inform the adaptation of PFA for frontline COVID-19 workers in AI/AN communities.

The primary goals of this project are to:

  • Develop Psychological First Aid for COVID-19 Frontline Workers in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities
  • Develop an online training for frontline workers to interact with the content in the guide
    Evaluate the resulting training with N = 200 frontline workers in AI/AN communities to learn if it is acceptable and effective

We would like to recognize the individuals and organizations who advised this project and helped shape our online guide and training:

Mary Ann Cook, DNP, RN (Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians), Red Lake IHS Hospital
Ashleigh Coser, Ph.D. (Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, and Chickasaw Nations) Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
CAPT Cindy Gunderson, PharmD, Red Lake IHS Hospital
Kyle Hill, PhD, MPH (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa enrolled citizen, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and Cheyenne River Sioux descendant), JHCIH
Native American LifeLines of Baltimore and Boston
Sophie Neuner, MD, MPH, (Karuk), JHCIH
Shardai Pioche, MSW (Diné), JHCIH

Design and layout of the guide and online training were provided by Design de Plume Inc., an Indigenously-owned creative firm located in the Robinson-Huron Treaty area. Design and layout of the annex was provided by the PFA adaptation team.

Access the online Psychological First Aid training here.