Madrid is one of the very few places in the world that has emergency response psychologists that attend the scene of accidents and disasters alongside the police, paramedics and fire crews. I recently interviewed Teresa Pacheco, one of the founders and current members of the Madrid team, about her work for the latest issue of The Psychologist.
Could you tell us a little about the psychology emergency response team in Madrid?
The SAMUR-Protección Civil emergency services are part of the Madrid municipal government, and at first the service was just focused on physical health. However, in 1999 we saw the need for specialist attention in dealing with complex psychological situations, and so a team of voluntary psychologists was created within SAMUR, principally responsible for passing on bad news to relatives after traffic accidents.
Because of the evolution of emergency psychology and the success of the team, in 2003 the psychology emergency response team was formally created. It consists of six people, on call 24 hours a day, for any psychological emergencies that might occur. To ensure an effective and consistent response we have developed procedures for a range of diverse situations for which a psychologist might be required, including extreme anxiety reactions, overdose, communicating bad news, child abuse, sexual violence, multiple victim accidents and large-scale catastrophes.
I first read about Teresa and her team in a 2008 article for the Spanish daily El País so it was a pleasure to be able to interview her one-to-one.
However, there are also two other freely available articles in the current issue of The Psychologist, both of which are excellent.
The first is an important piece on the psychology of homelessness by Christian Jarrett and the second is on the history of blindsight, a neurological condition where affected patients have no conscious experience of vision despite being able to direct automatic behaviours based on visual information.
Full disclosure: I’m an unpaid associate editor and occasional columnist for The Psychologist and my psychological emergencies usually involve losing the remote control.