Disaster Psychosocial and Mental Health Support in South and Southeast Asian Countries: A Synthesis

Authors: Sujata Satapathy and Bhadra Subhais
Published in Journal of South Asia Disaster Studies, vol. 2, no.1 June 2009

The South and South-East Asian countries, comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand share similar socio-economic profile, natural resources, common geological and climatic features, and disaster risks from many natural hazards. Multiple countries in Asia witness many devastating disasters across boundaries. The paper attempted to cover extensively the disaster profile and policy perspectives/legal framework for disaster psychosocial care and mental health services in highly disaster prone Asian Countries. Commonalities in approaches and practices in this field; nature of services -whether curative, preventive or promotive; quality and quantity of post-disasters service provisions; training manpower & capacity building; profile of service providers; institutional mechanisms for implementation of project/program; funding mechanisms for service and training activities; and major constraints were critically analyzed. The findings highlighted the prevalence of agency-run/project based ad-hoc approach in post-disaster service provisions and absence of proper institutional mechanism with mandatory guidelines to be followed during disasters, grossly inadequate trained manpower, absence of proper community based mental health care system, poor referral system, inadequate pre and post disaster psychological need assessment and ad-hoc funding sources. Nevertheless, a strong emerging trend of integrating this into larger disaster policy, planning, relief and rehabilitation services, seeking regional cooperation in developing a trained manpower, and building a community-based disaster psychological service delivery system was also found.

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