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How do people respond to an emergency?

Emergencies will impact everyone differently, we explore how people’s experiences may affect their mental health.
Man sitting on steps
© UK Health Security Agency
People are likely to show altruism in emergencies. Altruism is a personal value that arises from genuine concern for other people’s well-being at your own cost and can range from everyday gestures, like giving up your seat to give to someone else, to life changing acts, like donating a kidney.
While this is a great asset, it can also be a problem because people may expose themselves to danger while trying to help others. It is important that those responding ensure that they look after their own and others’ safety before helping others.

People are more likely to panic if they feel trapped and helpless, especially if escaping seems to be the only way to survive or if there is no-one available to help. Even in these circumstances, panic is unlikely.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of people who were restricted in movement due to lockdown measures cooperated in the knowledge that this was protecting themselves and others around them.

A small minority of people may use an emergency to take advantage of the chaos and lack of resources in those experiencing a crisis. It is therefore important to prioritise people’s basic most need in these situations, that is physical security, and to help to protect those around you from exploitation.

© UK Health Security Agency
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Psychological First Aid

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