Monday, January 14, 2008

Disaster Mental Health Services in Kenya

During this current crisis in Kenya, Mental Health professionals need to know that they have a major role to play in preventing psychological distress from developing into later mental problems among the affected population. Another role is in helping people come to terms with what happened and to process it, coming up with a coherent world view that is not informed by anger and hate.
These goals can be achieved relatively easily through a proces of psychological first aid, and a manual is available here (the Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide, 2nd Edition). Other useful material can be obtained in the Disaster Mental Health Guidebook for Clinicians all available on the ncptsd website.
Earlier, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing was a popular intervention in disasters to help mitigate the effects of trauma. More recent studies have either shown no effect or even hamful effects with debriefing, necessitating a reevaluation of disaster mental health responses toward a psychological first aid framework.
Responders to most disasters in Japan, the US, Australia and other parts of the world are now embracing Psychological First Aid as the initial intervention of choice, followed by other more individualised approaches with the passage of time.
Debriefing, however, may still be useful for the responders themselves, given that they are more psychologically aware, and may be more willing to verbalise their experiences in order to avoid vicarious traumatisation.
Research Continues.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kenyan Psychiatrist,

    I am an experienced Psych NP planning on coming to Kenya for 3-6months to volunteer (the fighting has made me a bit leary). I have been talking with World Corps. I would love to talk to you. Can we communicate somehow?

    By the way I have a book I wrote on Behavioral First Aid, that has gotton good reviews. I would like to send you a complementary copy. I wasn't sure how to contact you directly.

    Virginia Duffy


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