Integrating Mental Health Services into Humanitarian Relief Responses to Social Emergencies, Disasters, and Conflicts: A Case Study

Centre for Disaster and Military Psychiatry, University of Zurich, Birchstrasse 3, 8057, Zurich, Switzerland.
The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research (Impact Factor: 1.37). 01/2011; 38(1):132-41. DOI: 10.1007/s11414-010-9214-y
Source: PubMed


Utilizing lessons learned from development and implementation of "Project Liberty" in New York City, created in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, this paper explores the importance of integrating structured mental health services with community-based social service programs offered in large-scale humanitarian relief responses. Relevant international research studies illustrating similar integrated programs are also reviewed. The primary approach is community-based and resilience-enhancement focused, offering structure, stability, support, and community cohesion, with an added integrated screening component to identify persons with severe treatable mental health conditions. Because there is thus far little evidence that resilience-enhancing programs are effective for severe mental health conditions, a secondary program initiated in parallel would be staffed with more specialized providers offering services for those referred from the primary program. The key implication supports the establishment of more effective links between programs and professionals from different disciplines, who then can more effectively implement integrated program responses to large-scale disasters.

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    • "Neste sentido, estudos com foco na resiliência emocional, no suporte social e no papel das equipes de resgate têm ganhado credibilidade e espaço nas investigações sobre as reações psicológicas diante dos desastres, delineando as ações preventivas características da fase do prédesastre (Carvalho & Borges, 2009). Henley et al. (2010) demonstram a importância e a tendência atual de desenvolvimento de programas comunitários que enaltecem a resiliência, sugerindo uma nova forma de abordagem em pós-desastre, que ofereça estrutura, estabilidade, suporte e coesão à comunidade. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Providers serving children's mental health needs face the complexities of tailoring assessments based on developmental stages, family characteristics, school involvement, and cultural and economic factors. This task is even more challenging in the face of a disaster, terrorist incident, or other mass trauma event. Traditional mental health knowledge and skills may not be sufficient to meet children's needs in these chaotic situations. Unfortunately, disaster planning and response often overlook or only briefly address the unique mental health needs of children. While there is general agreement that children have specific vulnerabilities, few comprehensive plans exist for identifying and addressing children's mental health needs predisaster and postdisaster. Objectives/methods: Based on a review of the literature, the objectives of this article are to provide an overview of the central tenets of assessment with children throughout the course of a disaster and to propose a framework for disaster mental health assessment that can be used by a variety of providers in community disaster planning and response. Results: Disaster-related assessments are described including surveillance, psychological triage, needs assessment, screening, clinical evaluation, and program evaluation. This article also identifies easily accessible resources for responders and providers who desire to become more familiar with child disaster mental health assessment concepts. Conclusions: The framework described here provides an overview for understanding how assessment can be conducted to identify child and family needs and to inform the delivery of services following a disaster.
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