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