SOLAR (Skills fOr Life Adjustment and Resilience) is a recovery program for survivors of disasters or other traumatic events who are experiencing ongoing distress or adjustment difficulties. It is a brief, five-session program that helps people build skills so that they can better look after themselves following a traumatic event.
SOLAR is informed by what we already know works for emotional problems following a stressful or traumatic event. It is delivered by frontline disaster workers, call Coaches (e.g. case managers, volunteers, community nurses), who are at the coal-face of helping disaster survivors. SOLAR is delivered in the medium to long-term aftermath of a disaster or trauma, after people’s immediate recovery needs have been met.
By targeting survivors who are in psychological distress, instead of being limited to persons with diagnosable mental health problems, SOLAR works to prevent the onset of more serious mental health conditions down the track.
Development of SOLAR
Natural and human-made disasters represent a major threat to individual and societal health and wellbeing. Some of the negative mental health outcomes of disaster include depression, grief, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, disability, and problems with substances such as alcohol or drugs. These problems not only cause great distress; they also interfere with people’s quality of life, their ability to relate to loved ones, and their ability to carry out normal social and occupational roles.
Around the world, health services and practitioners respond rapidly following disaster with a view to preventing the development of psychological disorders. Unfortunately, at present there is no evidence to guide what these preventive strategies should look like. This is a problem not only because early emotional problems cause distress, economic loss, and functional impairment, but also because these problems can deteriorate into serious mental health problems if they are not addressed.
The SOLAR program was developed by an international collaboration of disaster and mental health experts, led by Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, in partnership with the Prince’s Trust Australia. The international group held a roundtable in Sydney, Australia in 2015, where the content for the intervention was decided. The SOLAR intervention was pilot-tested in 2016-17 with funding from the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health.
The Roundtable Group
Members of the SOLAR international roundtable development group include:
- Professor Meaghan O’Donnell, Director of Research, Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne
- Professor Richard Bryant, Director Traumatic Stress Clinic, University of Sydney
- Professor Jonathon Bisson, Professor of Psychiatry, Cardiff University
- Dr Susie Burke, Senior Researcher, Australian Psychological Society
- Dr Walter Busuttil, Director of Medical Services, Combat Stress
- Mr Andrew Coghlan, National Manager Emergency Services, Red Cross
- Professor Mark Creamer, Honarary Professor, Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne
- Ms Deb Gray, Manager, Mental Health Promotion and Illness Prevention, Alberta Health Services
- Professor Neil Greenberg, Defence Mental Health, Kings College London
- Professor Brett McDermott, Professor of Psychiatry, James Cook University
- Professor Alexander McFarlane, Director, Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, University of Adelaide
- Professor Candice Monson, Professor of Psychology, Ryerson University
- Dr Andrea Phelps, Director of Policy and Service Development, Phoenix Australia
Professor Josef Ruzek, Director, Dissemination and Training, National Center for PTSD
- Professor Paula Schnurr, Executive Director, National Center for PTSD
Ms Janette Lauza Ugsang, Senior Project Manager, Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre
- Dr Patricia Watson, Senior Educational Specialist, National Center for PTSD
- Ms Shona Whitton, National Coordinator, Strategic Partnerships, Red Cross
- Professor Richard Williams, Mental Health Strategy, University of Glamorgan
- Professor David Forbes, Director, Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne
Who can benefit from SOLAR?
The findings of the SOLAR project will be used to help people who have experienced disaster or other traumatic events manage their emotional distress, adjust to life following trauma, and prevent them from getting worse down the track. Participants stand to benefit from using the skills taught in the program to manage strong emotions, improve quality of life, improve sleep, and increase their social support.
SOLAR has the backing of local and international disaster and trauma experts, which encourages its use following a broad range of potentially traumatic events. By using frontline disaster workers, aka Coaches, to deliver SOLAR, we can maximise the number of people the program reaches, thereby providing support to people who would not ordinarily be in a position to access mental health support.
Importantly, ongoing research on SOLAR will help to establish an evidence base able to guide how psychosocial support can most effectively be provided in the aftermath of trauma.
Want to know more?
If you are a researcher interested in trialling SOLAR, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Phoenix Australia at:
Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne;
Postal Address: Level 3, Alan Gilbert Building, 161 Barry Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia.
Phone: (+61 3) 9035 5599.