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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Development of mental health first aid guidelines for panic attacks: a Delphi study

Claire M Kelly*, Anthony F Jorm and Betty A Kitchener

Author affiliations

ORYGEN Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:49  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-49

Published: 10 August 2009

Abstract

Background

Panic attacks are common, and while they are not life-threatening events, they can lead to the development of panic disorder and agoraphobia. Appropriate help at the time that a panic attack occurs may decrease the fear associated with the attack and reduce the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. However, few people have the knowledge and skills required to assist. Simple first aid guidelines may help members of the public to offer help to people who experience panic attacks.

Methods

The Delphi method was used to reach consensus in a panel of experts. Experts included 50 professionals and 6 people who had experience of panic attacks and were active in mental health advocacy. Statements about how to assist someone who is having a panic attack were sourced through a systematic search of both professional and lay literature. These statements were rated for importance as first aid guidelines by the expert and consumer panels and guidelines were written using the items most consistently endorsed.

Results

Of 144 statements presented to the panels, 27 were accepted. These statements were used to develop the guidelines appended to this paper.

Conclusion

There are a number of actions which are considered to be useful for members of the public to do if they encounter someone who is having a panic attack. These guidelines will be useful in revision of curricula of mental health first aid programs. They can also be used by members of the public who want immediate information about how to assist someone who is experiencing panic attacks.