We’d rather rely on others to do the hard work

Social capitalIt’s called the collective action problem: we’d rather rely on others to do the hard work.

In a cohesive community however, it is more likely that people will volunteer to become active. The reason? The enforceable trust that comes with the cohesion.

This is important for how you organise your daily working life (make sure your team is cohesive) 🙂 but may also explain why some communities have less trouble than others to overcome disaster experiences. Continue reading

Can we use Facebook to assess mental health needs after a disaster?

facebook disaster mental healthImagine: you have just received a request to assess the mental health needs of the survivors of a large-scale disaster. What are your major challenges: Logistics? Resources? Communication? Getting an overview of who is in the area, who has been assessed, and who still needs to be? And if needs are identified, getting the appropriate services in place?

Probably all of the above. In addition, it may be dangerous to enter the disaster area altogether, for example due to radiation risk.

Therefore, wouldn’t it help if you could conduct needs assessments via social networks like Facebook? If these give the same information as face-to-face interviews that you would conduct otherwise, it would be worthwhile as a low-cost-low-risk approach.

A research team from Israel set out to test whether a Facebook sample and a traditional face-to-face sample would show differences in mental health and disaster-related data after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Continue reading

Helping children after Hurricane Sandy and other disasters

Dr. Betty Lai‘s guestpost on disaster recovery was planned a few weeks ago and couldn’t turn out more timely: Hurricane Sandy has affected many children while ravaging large areas in the Carribean and the US. Betty is a clinical psychologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami. 

Each year, millions of children are exposed to natural disasters. Many children who experience a natural disaster may report symptoms of posttraumatic stress or depressive symptoms. In a recent study, we examined these symptoms and their comorbidity among 277 children (7 -11 years old) exposed to Hurricane Ike, a destructive natural disaster that hit Galveston, Texas in September 2008. Continue reading

Youth consultation when planning for emergencies

Australia has experienced a number of large disasters in the past few years. Examples are the extensive floods in Queensland in 2011 and the deadly bushfires in 2009. Susan Davie works in government emergency management and is a big advocate for engaging youth in the planning process. She shares her impressions of a pilot youth consultation.

One of the gaps in emergency management (EM) planning in Australia is the lack of consultation with young people. In essence young people do not have a voice, even though there is no doubt that children and young people are affected by disasters and emergency events. They do have specific needs, from child toilets in evacuation facilities to youth-centered psychosocial interventions.

Health and Human Services Emergency Management in Victoria is currently coordinating a project on planning for children and young people in emergency management.[i] As part of this project, we just undertook a pilot youth consultation in the Macedon Ranges Shire, a beautiful area at about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. The local committee was keen to hear the thoughts and ideas of young people and integrate them in their emergency management plans. Continue reading

A Quarter of Cases of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Is With Delayed Onset

This month’s guest post is by Geert Smid. Geert is a psychiatrist with Foundation Centrum ’45, the Dutch national institute for specialized diagnosis and mental health treatment after persecution, war and violence. He is also a researcher at Arq Psychotrauma Expert Group. Geert completed his PhD on Delayed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 2011 with a number of beautiful publications. He’ll make your brain work a little on this very topic:

According to the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, delayed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) must be diagnosed in individuals fulfilling criteria for PTSD if the onset of symptoms is at least 6 months after the trauma. The prevalence of delayed PTSD has for a long time remained unclear, and only few studies have examined factors that may explain its occurrence. The findings summarized below are based on prospective investigations in disaster survivors and unaccompanied refugee minors, as well as a comprehensive meta-analysis of prospective studies.

1. About a quarter of PTSD cases is with delayed onset. The results of our meta-analysis showed that delayed PTSD occurs in about one quarter of all PTSD cases. The risk of delayed PTSD did not decrease between 9 and 25 months after the traumatic event, and when traumatized populations were followed up for longer periods of time, more delayed PTSD cases were found. These findings suggest ongoing potential risk for some individuals.

2. During the interval between the trauma and delayed PTSD onset, some symptoms are likely to occur. Delayed PTSD occurred most often in individuals already reporting “subthreshold” symptoms after the traumatic event. These symptoms Continue reading