Thursday, April 28, 2011

One potential resource for the survivors of the Alabama tornadoes is community based psychosocial support (CBPSP)

We are all shocked and worried for the survivors of the tornadoes that have hit the South of the United States, specifically Alabama. We are watching the news as the search, rescue, and recovery are taking place. The SPHERE manual (2011) indicates that disaster response is composed of two main pillars: protection and assistance. We surmise that the shelters are opened all the VOAD groups are in action, and the physical health is being attended. Most disaster-affected people are receiving assistance.

How about protection?  There are three principles that should be attended to: (1) humanitarian assistance should be offered in such a way that it keeps the disaster affected people out of harms way; (2) the assistance received by the disaster affected people should not affect their capacity of self protection, (3) the confidentiality of the disaster-affected people should be preserved (SPHERE Manual 2011, p. 33).

Community based psychosocial support (CBPSP) is one of the strategies recommended by the SPHERE Manual (2011). As I write this piece the health services should prevent or reduce the mental health problems that may arise from the disaster. Strategies such as psychological first aid and activities that promote community self-help and social support should be included in this initial stage of response (SPHERE Manual, 2011, pp. 3334-335. As time goes by other (CBPSP) strategies will assist in the recovery and reconstruction phases. These strategies include: (1) promote positive community coping mechanism (i.e. participation in clean-up, voluntarism, community and church focused activities to reduce stress), (2) activities for children, (provide formal and informal educational activities for children and adolescents in safe places) (3) assist and promote the organization of appropriate psychosocial support activities (at the neighborhood, community and city levels), and (4) establish and maintain a mechanism for referral for clinical support (SPHERE Manual, 2011, p.43).

This is a very prescriptive approach but the suggestions are based on evidence informed intervention in recent major world disaster. On the meantime we pray for the disaster-affected people, their neighbors, and the rescue workers an volunteers who have taken on the task of “Helping thy neighbor”.

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