The extent and impact of mental health problems after disaster.
Disasters are events that challenge the individual's ability to adapt, which carries the risk of adverse mental health outcomes including serious posttraumatic psychopathologies. While risk is related to degree of exposure to psychological toxins, the unique vulnerabilities of special populations within the affected community as well as secondary stressors play an important role in determining the nature and amount of morbidity. Disasters in developing countries and those associated with substantial community destruction are associated with worse outcome. Although acute responses are ubiquitous, few disasters lead to posttraumatic psychopathology in the majority of people exposed. However, the shortage of human resources in psychiatry, particularly in developing countries, places a considerable burden on psychiatric services even without the additional constraints imposed by disaster. Hence, disasters are events that invite a public health approach to mental health that better serves the needs of the individual and the affected community. Such an approach considers all available human resources and is intended to mitigate the effects of disaster before serious psychopathologic sequelae arise. This community mental health strategy allows peripheral mental health workers to mediate between survivors and specialized mental health professionals while assisting in removing barriers to treatment. To be effective when disaster occurs, this approach requires careful planning in conjunction with community consultation before implementation of formal disaster mitigation policies.
Davidson, JRT; McFarlane, AC
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