EMT Medics and Paramedics are trained to treat physical injuries. They are not trained however, to deal with traumatized, confused, or crying people in the chaotic scene of an emergency. This is where we step in.
Our unit was created out of need. At a medically traumatic scene or crisis, the physical needs were being met but the bystanders, the family, and the people that were not injured in the situation, were left to fend for themselves after experiencing an extremely difficult situation.
Our team is comprised of dedicated volunteers who possess educational backgrounds in the mental health profession including psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. Out of the 70 active volunteer mental health professionals in the unit, some are also trained medics. Nevertheless, all the members who are not medics complete an advanced first aid course as well. This enables all members to assist medically if needed in field. As of today, 55% of our responders are women and 45% are men. The volunteers usually respond to a scene in their own marked vehicles and the average response time of arrival is within 13 minutes. In contrast to this record breaking time, other organizations and government agencies who are informed of an emergency, typically arrive hours, or even days after an incident.
United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma & Crisis Unit is unique because it provides psychological first aid in the initial minutes following a traumatic experience. We commit to arrive at the scene rapidly to support the trauma victims. The unit provides immediate stabilization and support during traumatic incidents and in their immediate aftermath. While on scene the responders triage the traumatized patients, provide emotional stabilization if needed and help engage family and community support. They also provide psychoeducation and information about where they can turn for further assistance if needed.
Our unit has responders spread across Israel. When United Hatzalah dispatchers receive a request to activate the Psychotrauma & Crisis Response Unit, the team springs into action and the closest appropriate responders are dispatched to the scene. The incidents that the unit responds are diverse, from mass casualty incidents (a terrorist attack or civil disaster) to more private tragedies like Sudden Infant Death Sydnrome (“cot death”) or suicide. Our experience has shown that early psychological first aid provides significant emotional relief for patients, their families and communities.