In the aftermath of the Zamboanga siege, Bohol earthquake and Supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013, the PAP created the special interest group (SIG) on Mental Health and Psychosocial Services (MHPSS). This was aimed to enable the organization to respond to the needs of survivors of natural and man-made disasters. Post-Haiyan, PAP met with several government (GOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) in order to better understand how best to aid the survivors psychologically at a time when their basic needs had yet to be prioritized. Members of the MHPSS SIG underwent training on Psychological First Aid (PFA) with the Department of Health and Dutch mental health expert and WHO consultant on MHPSS, Dr. Joop de Jong.
In alignment with international standards, PAP adopted PFA as its primary response after an emergency. In partnership with GOs, NGOs, and local higher education institutions, the PAP fielded volunteers to conduct PFA in affected localities.
UNESCO and the Department of Education tapped the PAP to create a PFA guide for secondary school teachers entitled “Supporting, Enabling and Empowering Students.” Public school teachers were trained in this.
Given the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, there was a clamor for psychosocial interventions that could be used during the recovery phase. In response to this, the MHPSS SIG brought together psychologists working with disaster survivors in a design workshop in February 2014. Assisted by psychologist Lynn Waelde, PhD of Palo Alto University, the group identified psychological needs, vulnerabilities and protective factors surrounding survivors. This led in the creation of a framework and design elements towards a recovery intervention. This community-based intervention was subsequently named “Katatagan: A Resilience program for survivors.” It comprises the following six modules: 1) Kalakasan (Finding and cultivating my strengths); 2) Katawan (Managing Physical Reactions); 3) Kalooban (Managing thoughts and emotions); 4) Kinagawiang Gawain (Engaging in Regular Activities); 5) Kalutasan at Kaagapay (Problem solving and social support); and 6) Kinabukasan (Moving Forward). The intervention was pilot-tested among college students in UP Tacloban. In partnership with Health Futures Foundation, PAP also trained and deployed facilitators to run the intervention in Samar from March to July 2014. It was also implemented among displaced survivors living in bunkhouses in Tacloban from July to December 2014. Those interested in learning more about this program may contact the secretariat.
To build the science of disaster response, a special issue of the Philippine Journal of Psychology on disaster response was released in December 2015. The special issue features studies on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), adaptive coping and resilience, vicarious traumatization, application of PFA, development and pilot of a resiliency program called Katatagan, use of expressive arts, disaster preparedness and hardiness.