Mental health in disaster settings

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39329.580891.BE (Published 04 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:679
  1. Lynne Jones, senior mental health adviser, International Medical Corps1,
  2. Joseph Asare, private consultant psychiatrist2,
  3. Mustafa Elmasri, mental health officer3,
  4. Andrew Mohanraj, psychosocial programme director4
  1. 1Developmental Psychiatry Section, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 2AH
  2. 2Peace Be Consultancy/Clinic, Ashale Botwe, PO Box 15347, Accra, North Ghana
  3. 3Medicins du Monde, Gaza, Palestine
  4. 4Provincial Health Office, Banda Aceh 23342, Aceh, Indonesia
  1. ljones{at}imcworldwide.org

New humanitarian guidelines include the needs of people with severe mental disorders

Guidelines on mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings were launched in Geneva last week by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).1 They will provide guidance on protecting and promoting the mental and social wellbeing of all people affected by emergencies created by conflict or natural disasters. Among the many topics covered, the guidelines also give special attention to people with severe mental disorders in the community.

Mental disorders account for four of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide.2 Yet mental health is one of the most under-resourced specialties, and no country meets its mental health needs even when no emergency exists.3 In emergencies, the proportion of people with severe mental disorders (such as psychosis or severely disabling moods, anxiety, and stress related disorders) is projected to be about 1% higher than the estimated baseline of 2-3%.4 In a large emergency this can amount to thousands of people.

People with …

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