Community Disasters: Mental Health Response

Carol S. North, MD, MPE  The Nancy and Ray L. Hunt Chair in Crisis Psychiatry Director, Program in Trauma and Disaster, VA North Texas Health Care System 4500 S. Lancaster Rd., Dallas, TX 75216 Professor of Psychiatry and Surgery/Division of Emergency Medicine UT Southwestern Medical Center 6363 Forest Park Rd. Dallas, TX 75390-8828MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Carol S. North, MD, MPE

The Nancy and Ray L. Hunt Chair in Crisis Psychiatry
Director, Program in Trauma and Disaster,
VA North Texas Health Care System
4500 S. Lancaster Rd., Dallas, TX 75216
Professor of Psychiatry and Surgery/Division of Emergency Medicine
UT Southwestern Medical Center
6363 Forest Park Rd. Dallas, TX 75390-8828

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: In post-disaster settings, a systematic framework of case identification, triage, and mental health interventions can guide overall mental health response and should be integrated into emergency medicine and trauma care responses.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Evidence-based treatments are available for patients with active psychiatric disorders, but psychosocial interventions such as psychological first aid, psychological debriefing, crisis counseling, and psychoeducation for individuals with distress have not been sufficiently evaluated to establish their benefit or harm in disaster settings.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Different disaster-affected populations will have different mental health needs that will vary with regard to the characteristics of the disaster and to their exposures to it.  The consequences for those who are directly exposed to a disaster can be serious, with as many as one-third likely to develop PTSD.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Research is needed to determine the benefits of formal psychiatric treatments applied to disaster survivors and of the psychosocial interventions designed to serve those who experience distress.

Citation:

North CS, Pfefferbaum B. Mental Health Response to Community Disasters: A Systematic Review. JAMA. 2013;310(5):507-518. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.107799.

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