Disaster Mental Health Services: A Primer for Practitioners

Disaster Mental Health Services: A Primer for Practitioners

Disaster Mental Health Services: A Primer for Practitioners

Disaster Mental Health Services: A Primer for Practitioners

Synopsis

This book assists clinicians and traumatologists in "making the bridge" between their clinical knowledge and skills and the unique, complex, chaotic, and highly political field of disaster. It combines information from a vast reservoir of prior research and literature with the authors' practical and pragmatic experience in providing disaster mental health services in a wide variety of disasters.

Excerpt

“Don't you remember me?” asked a young woman enrolled in my class at Purdue in 1982. After she helped me to remember, I realized that she was a freshman in high school when I came to her home in 1975 to interview her family who lived 40 minutes from Indianapolis, Indiana. I was co-investigator on a federal grant to collect data about their experiences the previous year when they survived a direct hit by a tornado that destroyed their home, barn, and other buildings. I recall that only her father-let us call him Mr. Pendleton-had no discernable postdisaster stress symptoms. She said that after everything was rebuilt and new sod in the front yard was in place, he broke out in hives and experienced 6 months of panic attacks. Mr. Pendleton apparently experienced a “delayed” reaction, although I would guess that with better methods we could have found that his reactions were not delayed but were reactions that were part of a continuum of normal reactions people often experience after an abnormal event such as a tornado. The challenge of disaster mental health services is to be able to know what someone like Mr. Pendleton needs and offer it, and, at the same time, sense what he does not need and avoid offering it.

This book is the latest in the Brunner-Routledge Psychosocial Stress Series. Disaster Mental Health Services: A Primer for Practitioners, as the title suggests, is designed for traumatologists who have the skills for helping traumatized people in crisis but not the special skills, knowledge, perspective, and procedures that are required for helping survivors much like Mr. Pendleton in the chaotic aftermath of disaster.

Could there ever be a greater need for a book that assists practitioners to prepare for helping their community recover from a major traumatic event? If only this book had been available in New York City in September, 2001. The difference that would have made is illustrated by one of the Green Cross Projects. The Green Cross Projects had been asked for assistance by a major international union with a headquarters blocks from ground zero and an 800-member staff, but with nearly 2,000 union members right at ground zero. It was clear from the very beginning which Green Cross volunteer practitioners had disaster work experience and which did not. The Green Cross Projects volunteers who practiced the concepts in this book and understood disaster mental health work were more able to provide the needed and appropriate assistance. In contrast to therapy work, disaster work departs from the practice of psychotherapy and all the niceties of “building a therapeutic alliance, ” creating a safe environment, and applying

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