Editorials

Aid after disasters

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7501.1160 (Published 19 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1160
  1. Mark van Ommeren, technical officer (vanommerenm@who.int),
  2. Shekhar Saxena, coordinator, mental health evidence and research team,
  3. Benedetto Saraceno, director
  1. Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization, Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland
  2. Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization, Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland

    Needs a long term public mental health perspective

    The crisis caused by the earthquake and tsunami in South East Asia six months ago elicited an unprecedented aid response by humanitarian agencies financed by numerous governments and private citizens. With communicable disease more or less under control, aid agencies now focus increasingly on the mental suffering of surviving populations. We estimate here the likely mental health and psychosocial support needs of those affected and provide a public health framework for long term assistance.

    Although no reliable data exist on numbers of people with problems related to mental health in countries affected by the tsunami, the estimated rates described in the table give a rough picture at the population level of what may be expected. Observed prevalence rates will vary with case definition, method of assessment, time since the disaster, and community. Across and within countries, communities differ in current and previous disaster exposure and in sociocultural factors that may influence social support, coping, and …

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