Phoenix Australia is co-hosting an international roundtable of mental health experts in Sydney on Thursday and Friday to establish a world-first protocol to address mental health issues arising after a natural or man-made disaster.
The roundtable, a joint initiative of Phoenix Australia and The Prince’s Charities Australia, will develop an internationally agreed protocol to address the mental health impact of disasters and evaluate the effectiveness of the recommended intervention.
Disasters of natural and human origin represent a major threat to economies and to the health and wellbeing of communities around the world. As a result of climate change and international conflict, the intensity of disasters is projected to increase in the years ahead. Ample evidence demonstrates that such events can result in adverse mental health outcomes for a substantial minority of affected people, causing great distress and interfering with the ability to relate to loved ones and carry out normal occupational roles. Common problems include depression, grief, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and substance misuse. The cost to the community in both human and financial terms is enormous, and is recognised by global agencies as one of the most urgent public health issues.
Director of Phoenix Australia, Professor David Forbes, said that, “Following a disaster, assistance is often deployed very effectively in the short term, however, it is critical to ensure that people are helped to re-adjust in the medium and long term, thereby preventing the development of serious, debilitating mental health conditions. What is needed is an effective and proven intervention to guide mental health recovery programs.”
The purpose of the roundtable is two-fold: to achieve consensus on an intervention model for sub-clinical psychological problems following disaster, and to develop a strategy to test the effectiveness of that intervention in post-disaster settings. The challenge will be to achieve a balance between a workable clinical model on the one hand, and a model that is amenable to controlled research on the other.
The roundtable will take place over 12 and 13 November 2015. Sir Angus Houston AK AFC is the patron of the roundtable, and the 22 delegates include leading trauma mental health experts from Australia, US, UK, Canada, and the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center.