Practical help for you and your community during frightening and dangerous times

Are local or global situations causing you to feel distressed or anxious? Perhaps you’re at direct risk of social unrest, disease epidemics, terrorism, conflict, or police violence. This might be a recent emergency, or represent historic and systematic abuse and neglect. You may be being specifically targeted because of your race, gender, disability, sexuality, faith, or other factors beyond your control. You may have had some forewarning about events -or they may have come as a sudden shock. The threats you’re facing may be in the form of immediate financial, physical or emotional harm.

Alternatively, it may be exposure to events via the media, through conversations with friends, or awareness of world events that are making you feel unhappy or afraid. If you already have an existing physical or mental health condition this may be exacerbated by knowing about other hazards that could be affecting you – or those you love. Maybe you aren’t even immediately familiar with people facing maltreatment but you are still distraught on hearing about their situation and wish to do something practical to help.

Below are a number of resources for you to use to help yourself, or to share with others who might benefit from them. All are designed to be adapted to suit different circumstances depending on where you are and what the problem(s) are that you are facing.

This guide to understanding and delivering Psychological First Aid (PFA) is created for all individuals and communities who are coping with disasters and crises (including the aftermath of war or terrorism) and includes free tools and resources (in multiple languages) for immediate use; plus links to courses for training for those whose work as practitioners or activists may require longer term delivery of PFA. The Activist Handbook has guides on understanding burnout, anxiety and stress.

The International Red Cross have produced First Aid in armed conflicts and other situations of violence available in multiple languages. Hesperian have a range of health guides in multiple languages on a variety of health and development topics for those who lack access to affordable and accessible services. Their most famous text Where there is no doctor and Where women have no doctor (particularly the chapters on childbirth) may be essential to you or your community in emergency situations.

The Black Cross Collective’s ‘An Activist’s Guide to Basic First Aid (archived pdf) is for those providing first aid during protests, demonstrations and periods of unrest. While the open access Riot Medicine books are available with information for those who have no medical experience and those in hostile or dangerous settings that have clinical training.

Mental and physical health resources are also linked to alongside personal care and safety materials in What to do instead of calling the police (this is more of a US-focused guide but may still be adaptable to other country settings). In general the advice for anyone at risk of physical harm or with health problems is to call the emergency services (fire service, paramedics, police, or coastguard). Noting, also, that these may not be available – or that you may not feel you can trust such services.

Wiki-voyage offers a range of safety tips for travellers including information on what to do in war zones or areas of conflict.

If you are protesting, defending your home or community, or involved in activism you should be aware of your safety and those around you. This card links to advice on how to protest which includes specific advice on what to do if someone’s teargassed or shot. There’s also these (US focused) advice for protesting if you’re an immigrant. The first aid resources in the above may also help during  a protest or occupation, while this post explains what to bring to a protest.

Journalists or those covering riots, conflicts and invasions or other violent or dangerous situations may find these sixteen safety tips from the European Federation of Journalists useful (although it is recommended anyone working as a journalist should seek specific safety training from their employer or union). If you’re working with translators and interpreters there is a multi-language guide here from Red-T on ensuring their wellbeing is not compromised by your actions.

It’s common during and after a crisis to not know what to do or feel so weighed down by events you cannot concentrate or care for yourself or others. These two guides may help. The first is from me, writing in the Telegraph, about how to cope when life seems frightening and upsetting the other is by therapist Tania Glyde on When the world has changed forever – self care in a collective crisis. Both of these posts provide ideas for tackling loneliness, isolation, fear and distress – with links to additional sources of support and help. They are particularly focused on those who are living in times of uncertainty or unrest.

Meanwhile, regardless of wider social or cultural situations happening around you, other life events can also keep on happening. These might be positive or negative – but you may still require assistance in coping with them – in which case a list of support services and helplines can be found here.

Disclaimer – all guides linked to above are the responsibility of their individual authors and are not a replacement for legal advice, mental or physical care or therapy and should be used at your own risk.

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