This headline on March 17, 2011 in ABC News regarding the March 11 earthquake near Sendai and its related effects sums up the importance of addressing mental health needs during situations of crisis. Japan is well known for its disaster preparedness efforts, but it even includes a psychological aid component, a part that is often underserved by services following natural disasters. Agencies tend to focus on physical immediate needs rather than psychological support. In the case of Japan, they are much more prepared for addressing the psyschologial aspect following the Kobe earthquake in 1995, Japan formed its first consolidated system for psychological aid following a crisis.
Not only are civilians at risk for psychological distress but so are rescue workers. The recently published study by Dr Wei Qiang Zhang from the Beijing Military General Hospital in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health studied 1189 soldiers (for whom baseline health indicators were available) who aided following the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and found a high incidence of health problems, including psychological distress. This along with other studies and reports demonstrates the importance of providing mental health screenings, pre-briefing,and de-briefings to better prepare disaster response workers and volunteers.
The devastating earthquake reminds us of the January 2010 earthquake that shattered the lives of millions of Haitians in Port-Au-Prince. Although both were strong earthquakes with multiple humanitarian consequences, the socio-economic conditions and contexts are quite different. But in both cases, there is the need to provide psychological support. El Papiro de Nesmenau had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Faustin who has recently returned from six month medical mission in Haiti who will share with the audience of El Papiro de Nesmenau his view on the mental health needs and consequences Port-Au-Prince in comparison to those affected in Japon. Listen to the interview by clicking the video.