A New Psychological First Aid

It’s been about a year now that Psychological First Aids have been instituted in Italian cities: first in Milan, in 2012, from the idea of psychologists and psychotherapists Giuseppe Cersosimo and Marinella Sciumé. There has been one in Rome for about a year, thanks to doctor Mariolina Palumbo, who is also a psychologist with a specialization in psychotherapy.

A Psychological First Aid is a structure whose purpose is to provide immediate psychological support to all those who request it, for issues that can go from anxiety to depression, conflicts between partners and eating disorders. Here, the prices are considerably low (about 30 € for half an hour), and they allow whoever is experiencing serious difficulties to ask for help and, if possible, a moment of relief from their discomfort. As you can imagine, no therapist has a crystal ball or a magic wand, an there is no way to confront and resolve psychological disorders in such a limited amount of time. However, a session with a professional psychologist who is able to empathize and understand somebody’s hardships can undoubtedly help and maybe open a breach for a potential therapy process.

In Italy, there has been and still is a stigma on psychology and psychotherapy: there are many prejudices on therapy and mental health (“going to therapy” is the equivalent of “being crazy”). This issue comes with the fear of mental health and the tendency to medicalize every mental health issue with the naïve intent of reducing everything to physical problem, be it either a shortage of substances or molecules. This makes us believe that a specialist with superpowers, as many times we tend to identify doctors, is able to keep under control. Because this mentality is still quite common, in Italy, psychology is still neglected along with all of its complexities, so the consequences can sometimes be quite awful: it can entail the proliferation of psychiatric medications that in many cases are not helpful or, sometimes, are even detrimental. Moreover, rather than having a psychiatrist prescribe the medications (which would make the patients feel like they’re “crazy”), many have their general practitioners prescribe their medications. General practitioners are undoubtedly qualified to prescribe medications, but they are not specialized in this specific type of pathologies so they are not always knowledgeable enough to give these types of prescriptions. This way, the denial of a mental health issue leads to its intensification, and the issue gets buried and drowned in the pharmaceutical substances without actually confronting it, much less resolving it.

We must keep in mind that an individual’s health consists of a state of well-being that encompasses the body as well as the mind: it is fundamental to take care of the latter, and entrusting it to specialists of the sector, namely psychologists that are specialized in psychotherapy (as well as psychiatrists, in case there is a need of a pharmacological support). Undoubtedly the proliferation of psychological first aids is a small step forward in the normalization of psychology as a discipline: I hope that the path proceeds and that there will be a further proliferation of projects that promote mental health, such as the implementation of general psychologists (a mental health counterpart of the “general practitioner”) and an affiliation with the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (the National Healthcare Service, SSN) of psychologists that work as free lancers, but all this is still a project.

Everyone can refer to Psychological First Aids as long as the individual is over 18 years old, without any limitation in residence, nationality and without booking in advance. Usually the facility is open every day in day-time hours. Recently, in Rome there is only one at the clinic “Villa Giuseppina”, in the neighborhood of Monteverde – Portuense: by clicking here https://www.villagiuseppina.it/poliambulatorio/pronto-soccorso-psicologico , it is possible to visit their website, which contains information on their services.

All the images that were used in this article can be found on pixabay.com

Translation: Marina Traylor

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