Disasters vary based on intensity, cause, duration, demographics and resilience of effected population. Traumatic distress is expected among affected individuals, providing the need to plan accordingly before the events take place. Coping capabilities and underlying pre-existing mental and behavioral disorders contribute widely to post-disaster manifestation in individuals presenting any mental health condition. Age, gender, demographics, and socio-economic factors all contribute and play an important role in responsiveness. Recognizing and adjusting resources to include strong follow-up practices can prove to fulfill the areas where conditions may go undiagnosed and long-term effects may be untreatable or irreversible.
Keywords: Disaster, mental health, resilience, resources.
Behind the scenes what takes place after a disaster whether manmade or natural cause with respect to mental health is more complex than it seems. At first and as a consequence of perception the immediate response is usually trying to rebuild what was lost or damaged structural wise. The biggest challenge however may be trying to address the anguish and distress that accompanies any disaster situation. A person does not necessarily must have lost everything they had to endure mental stress. Just the experience itself may be traumatic enough to cause the need to seek professional help and guidance.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common term and widely utilized in the past few years due to challenges population have experienced post disaster; yet the untreated amount of individuals remains to be a challenge. The right time to begin to treat mental health issues in any disaster situation should be immediately following the event. However, the right time to evaluate the best practices and treatment approaches should be pre-disaster. Studies have shown that as time passes, targeting mental and behavioral issues may become more challenging or people may not be as proactive in seeking professional help. Emergency response personnel and armed forces are known to have a great program in place to provide anyone involved in a traumatic situation to seek counseling sooner than later.
A lot has been discussed about preparation, awareness and educational needs in pre-disaster events; it would be just as important if not more, planning ahead and knowing what to look for once a situation arises. Recognizing mental health disorders is not a simple task, it is therefore extremely important the consequences of poor planning and management of any existent program. “Numerous challenges that states experience when planning, applying for, implementing, maintaining, phasing out, and evaluating federally funded programs in crisis prevention highlighted the importance of including mental health in state-level disaster plans, fostering collaborative relationships across institutions, clarifying program guidelines, sharing innovations across programs, and building state capacity for needs assessment and program evaluation” (Elrod, Harris, & Norris, 2006).
During crisis situations trying to plan and coordinate can be challenging when a plan is not already in place. Taking for example one of the biggest and unexpected disasters in the United States history as Hurricane Katrina was; the nature of losses endured contributed to mental crisis being one of the biggest factors the people of the affected states had to deal with. Crisis prevention programs need to be tailored to conform the needs of affected population as well. Age, gender, and socio-economic status are just a few of the items to be considered in order for crisis and mental health programs to be effective. Then there is the follow-up phase; once the initial consultation takes place, evaluation is performed and assessment of individuals is completed, programs need to include a strong follow-up standard protocol to ensure resources and treatments are working while there is still time to make