Not forgetting severe mental disorders in humanitarian emergencies:a descriptive study from the Philippines

Severe mental disorders are often neglected following a disaster. Based on Médecins SansFrontières’(MSF) experience of providing mental health (MH) care after the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines, the authors describe the monthly volume of MH activities and beneficiaries; characteristics of people seeking MH care;profile and outcomes of people with severe mental disorders; prescription of psychotropic medication; and factors facilitating the identification and management of individuals with severe mental disorders. A retrospective review of programme data was carried out.
In total, 172 persons sought MH care. Numbers peaked three months into MSF’s intervention and decreased thereafter. Of 134 (78%) people with complete data, 37 (28%) had a severe mental disorder, often characterised by psychotic symptoms (n=24, 64%) and usually unrelated to the typhoon (n=32, 86%). Four people (11%) were discharged after successful treatment, two (5%) moved out of the area, 20 (54%) were referred for follow-up on cessation of MSF activities and 10 (27%) were lost-to-follow-up. Psychotropic treatment was prescribed for 33 (75%) people with mental disorders and for 11 with non-severe mental disorders
This study illustrates how actors can play an important role in providing MH care for people with severe mental disorders in the aftermath of a disaster.

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