In addition to damages on the infrastructure, disaster can cause significant psychological and social impact on a population. This impact might be acute in the short term, but they can also undermine the long-term mental health and psychosocial well-being of the affected population.
By definition is a disaster a tragedy of a natural or human-made hazard (this a situation which poses a level of threat to life, property, environment) that negatively affects society or environment. Often developing countries suffer much greater costs when a disaster hits because these countries are much more vulnerable, and have less appropriate disaster management measures. We differentiate between natural disasters, for ex. Earthquakes, floods, volcano eruptions and man-made disasters, as technological disasters (results of failure of technology – engineering failure, transport disasters, environmental) and sociological (riots, war, criminal acts etc). All these disasters can cause – in addition to all damages on the infrastructure – significant psychological and social suffering to the population that has been affected. The psychological and social impacts of disasters may be acute in the short term, but they can also undermine the long-term mental health and psychosocial well-being of the affected population. These impacts may threaten peace, human rights and development. One of the priorities in emergencies is thus to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being. On this page we have collected some useful links with information about disaster.
Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings
These quite useful guidelines (191 p.) reflect an emerging consensus on good practice among practitioners. The core idea behind them is that, in the early phase of an emergency, social supports are essential to protect and support mental health and psychosocial well-being. The guidelines provide in addition with selected psychological and psychiatric topics interventions for specific problems.
Disaster Mental Health Handbook
American Red Cross 2012
These guidelines provide with a good overview about to define disaster, and possible symptoms in the survivors, as well as how to handle the survivors needs. Some advices concerning assessment during the different phases of disaster.
Disaster Psychosocial Response – Handbook for community counselor trainers
Academy for Disaster Management Education, Planning, Training ADEPT 2005
This training manual (95 p.) aims to provide an overview of substantive concepts to assist (target group) psycho-social program administrators, planners, trainers, clinicians in developing the training component of community counseling projects, including how disasters affect children, adults and older adults, the importance of tailoring the program to fit the community, and descriptions of effective counseling interventions. It gives an overview over symptoms, psychological effects on people (children, adults, elderly).
Coping With Disasters – a Guidebook to Psychosocial Intervention
John H. Ehrenreich 2001
This manual (104 p.) outlines a variety of psychosocial interventions aimed at helping people cope with the emotional effects of disasters. It is intended for use by mental health workers (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other counselors), by primary medical care workers (doctors, nurses, and other community health providers), by disaster relief workers, by teachers, religious leaders, and community leaders, and by governmental and organizational officials concerned with responses to disasters. It is intended as a field guide or as the basis for brief or extended training programs in how to respond to the psychosocial effects of disasters.
The Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale (HESPER)
The HESPER Scale was developed to fill the gap between the population-based “objective” indicators (for example malnutrition or mortality indicators), and the qualitative data based on convenience samples (for example through focus groups or key informant interviews).. It aims to provide a method for assessing perceived needs in representative samples of populations affected by large-scale humanitarian emergencies in a valid and reliable manner. This manual includes the HESPER Scale, as well as a detailed explanation of how to use the HESPER Scale, how to train interviewers, and how to organise, analyze and report on a HESPER survey.
Mental health and social health after acute emergencies
Ommeren, Saxcena & Saraceno, Round Table WHO Bulletin 2005
This represents a short overview and consensus about best to cope with disasters, both practical topics and mentioning the necessary social support.
Natural disasters: Overview
American psychological association 2010
This website under the American Psychological Association provides a good overview on the effects of disasters on peoples psyche. It gathers lots of relevant links under the topics coping with disaster, how psychologists help, and some updated news about disaster-effects.
Mind/body health: The effects of traumatic stress
American psychological association 2010
This article is a “fact-sheet” presenting to the target group of survivors an overview about symptoms, effects otherwise, and coping strategies.
Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events
American psychological association 2010
Factsheet that presents in a short version some topics concerning disaster: how do people respond, how should I help myself and my family, when should I seek professional help. Target group: survivors.
Psychosocial aspects of the Tsunami
IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support 2005
Factsheet (1 p.)”what you can do right now to support wellbeing” – very practically how-to-do after a disaster had occurred, f.e. how to talk to survivors. Not only after Tsunamis.
Psychosocial interventions – A handbook
This handbook (198 p.) presents very solid information and how-to-do about coping with disasters and the psychological effects. Focus on psychosocial support and how to organize: assessments, planning, implementation, training, monitoring. Target group: psychosocial practitioners.
Psychological First Aid
National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD 2006
Contains intervention strategies which are intended for use with children, adolescents, parents/caretakers, families, and adults exposed to disaster or terrorism, and in the immediate aftermath. It can also be provided to first responders and other disaster relief workers. Psychological First Aid is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. It comes along with lots of very useful and practical examples (f.e. how to talk to survivors). Target group: mental health and other disaster response workers.
Public health risk assessment and interventions, Earthquake: Haiti
This “public health risk assessment” was meant to provide health professionals in United Nations Agencies, nongovernmental organizations, donor agencies and local authorities which were and are working with populations affected by the earthquake in Haiti, with up-to-date technical guidance on the major public health threats faced by the earthquake-affected population. –
Guidelines on Gender-based Violence interventions in humanitarian settings
We know that in times of crises and disaster there is an increased level of violence, in particular in Gender-based Violence (GBV) . GBV is a serious problem also in the context of complex emergencies and natural disasters where normal structures of society are seriously affected and alternative safeguards not yet in place. Women and children are often targets of abuse, and are the most vulnerable to exploitation and violence simply because of their gender, age, and status in society. This website provides with an overview and factsheets on that topic.
Managing stress in humanitarian workers – Guidelines for Good Practice
Antares Foundation 2006.
This is a collection of some principles to be followed in organizing help after disaster, with focus on support for the mental health workers. Disasters aftermath and coping with that and survivors needs can be for the helpers a source for compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatisation or secondary traumatic stress (STS). Early recognition and awareness is crucial to be resilient to these symptoms. Awareness of this is important for workers in areas of conflict and disaster, and in extreme environments such as these, people may be more vulnerable to secondary traumatization. Target group: humanitarian organizations and their staff.
Trauma Center Resources – Handouts, Interviews, Resources for First Responders
Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute 2007
On this website of the Trauma Center we find a collection of very useful links to handouts and articles about the topic of disaster and its consequences, as well as links to resources for first responders (target group) .
This is the main page of NCTSN concerning Natural Disasters. It provides with the most important links under this topic – earthquakes, epidemics, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis. Under each of these pages you will find lots of very useful links and articles as well, with essential description of situations, symptoms, and how-to-cope procedures.
Field Manual for Mental Health and Human Service Workers in Major Disasters
This Field Manual is intended for mental health workers and other human service providers who assist survivors following a disaster. This pocket reference provides the basics of disaster mental health, with numerous specific and practical suggestions for humanitarian workers (target group). Essential information about disaster survivors’ reactions and needs is included. “Helping” skills are described with guidance for when to refer for professional assistance. Strategies for worker stress prevention and management are presented in the last section.
It makes sense to consider the topic ”children and disaster” as an own chapter. When children are exposed to circumstances that are beyond the usual scope of human experience (eg. a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or acts of violence), they may have difficulty understanding and coping with the events and may develop a range of symptoms, including trauma symptoms, depression, anxiety, or, if deaths are involved, bereavement. Children and their capability to cope with traumas are not yet stabilized as adults are. Psychosocial manifestations in children after disaster are influenced greatly by the nature of disaster itself, the level of exposure to the disaster, the extent to which the children and those around them are personally affected by the disaster, and the individual characteristics of children, including their age and stage of development. In addition, children are uniquely affected by disasters because they are afflicted not only by the trauma of the event but also by their parents’ fear and distress.
We have collected some useful articles, guidelines, websites concerning this topic. Lots of the links although targeting children can nevertheless be considered valid and useful also for adults.
Children and Disaster; Teaching Recovery Techniques
Patrick Smith, Atle Dyregrov, William Yule – Children and War Foundation, 2002
This manual and accompanying workbook (90 p.)is a very useful how-to-do guide: helping childcare professionals to set up group lessons for children 8 years and older, who have survived disaster. These lessons should help teaching children in a step by step practical way to develop some skills and techniques which are helpful in coping with the psychological effects of disastrous events. They should work as prevention for later treatment: children who have learned and practiced the techniques contained here will be less likely to need specialist treatment services in the future. These lessons provide assistance for large numbers of children as quickly as possible. Please contact Atle Dyregrov at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Inter-agency Guiding Principles on Unaccompanied and Separated Children
International Committee of the Red Cross and other organisations 2004
In almost all armed conflicts, mass population displacements, natural disasters and other crises, a number of children become separated from their families or from other adults responsible for them. These children form one of the most vulnerable groups in these situations, often deprived of care and protection. Most can be reunited with parents, siblings, members of the extended family or other adults whom they know and who are willing to provide for their care. Action on behalf of unaccompanied and separated children should be guided by principles enshrined in international standards. The validity of these principles has been confirmed by experience and lessons learnt from conflicts and natural disasters in recent years. The objective of the present publication (72 p.) is to outline the guiding principles which form the basis for action in this regard.
Pediatric Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness – Mental Health Issues
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, AHRQ 2003
Quite useful, long and solid article, with focus on an overview on trauma-related disorders – including assessment and treatment – and specially “death notification and pediatric bereavement”. The last topic is described extensive.
Psychosocial Implications of Disaster or Terrorism on Children: A Guide for the Pediatrician
American Academy of Pediatrician, 2005
This article (11 p.) provides with a great overview on the effects of trauma on children. There are lots of factors crucial for development of symptoms, which are discussed. We find description of symptoms and diagnosis, as well as advice for pediatricians (target group clinicians).
Pediatric medical traumatic stress toolkit for health care providers
This website represents a collection of materials (links to), designed for hospital-based health care providers (physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals.) The material may also be of use to mental health professionals who work in health care settings. It provides an introduction to traumatic stress, practical tips and tools, handouts that can be distributed. –
Healing after Trauma Skills – a Manual for Professionals, Teachers, and Families working with Children after Trauma/Disaster
Gurwich & Messenbaugh, Univ. of Oklahoma, 2005
Very good manual (104 p.) with a description of symptoms which may occur in children after disaster, identifying the severity of disease, and suggestions how to cope/treatment. Detailed instructions, how-to-do step-by-step, can be used as a workshop-manual. Target group: professionals/clinicians (teachers, families).
Childhood Traumatic Grief Educational Materials
National Child Traumatic Stress Network NCTSN 2004
This manual (14 p.) includes both brief information sheets as well as in-depth descriptions and guidelines on recognizing and enquiring about traumatic grief in young patients. It provides essential material for understanding uncomplicated bereavement following a death, further background on childhood traumatic grief, and other reactions to trauma.
Your Child Is At Risk for Mental Health Issues After a Disaster
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities 2018
After a disaster, children may experience anxiety, fear, sadness, sleep disruption, distressing dreams, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anger outbursts. Learn the signs of children’s mental stress to help them cope after a disaster.
Emergency Preparedness and Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC (last review 2018)
This is a very central site where you can find an overview over preparedness for all hazards (with the topics preparation and planning, surveillance, training and education, coping with a disaster, clinicians, healthcare facilities, labs, research) as well as how to deal with specific hazards. The last point links to hazards as bioterrorism, mass casualties, chemical emergencies, natural disasters and severe weather, radiation emergencies, recent outbreaks and incidents. All links again have lots of sub-topics, with quite useful fact-sheets, information, how-to-do for professionals as well as for survivors (target group).
The Sphere Project
The Sphere Project provides “humanitarian charter and minimum standards in disaster response”. This is a great international collaboration where hundreds of national and international NGO`s, UN agencies, academic institutions as well as individuals came together some years ago with the ambition to define international standards when coping with disaster, the collaboration resulting in a handbook for humanitarian responders.
Disaster Mental Health – Trauma Information Pages
David Baldwin, 2010
David Baldwin`s trauma-pages, and here especially the one concerning mental health under the effect of disaster, provides with a very extensive collection of links. These links again cover most topics imaginable, from general information, assessment planning, mental health and guidelines, as well as topics concerning special hazards and the needs here.
This site is administered by the UN Office for coordination of human affairs OCHA, and defines itself as an “independent vehicle of information, designed specifically to assist the international humanitarian community in delivering of emergency assistance”. It provides up-to-date information about the latest disasters, as well as hand-outs and guidelines. Lots of very useful links to relevant topics. Target group relief workers.
The HumanitarianResponse.info platform is provided to the humanitarian community by OCHA as a mean to help responders coordinate their work on the ground. This site is administered by the UN Office for coordination of human affairs OCHA, and defines itself as an “independent vehicle of information, designed specifically to assist the international humanitarian community in delivering of emergency assistance”. It provides up-to-date information about the latest disasters, as well as hand-outs and guidelines. Lots of very useful links to relevant topics. Target group relief workers.
Psychosocial support in emergencies
The Psychosocial Centre of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies focuses on contemporary psychosocial support programmes and activities, including specific projects, assessments and evaluations. New initiatives and developments in research as well as key meetings and trainings in the field of psychosocial support are also highlighted.
Coping with Disasters: Health Information Guide
A traumatic event is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that affects someone emotionally. These situations may be natural, like a tornado or earthquake. They can also be caused by other people, like a car accident, crime, or terror attack.
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