The mental well-being of internationally deployed disaster-relief workers has become an issue of concern. The psychological consequences for the relief worker being exposed to trauma and threats have been well documented; however, the role of pre-deployment preparation in supporting mental well-being has not received due attention, despite research indicating the need for it.
This case series examines the experiences of deployed volunteers of one emergency-relief organization. The aim of this research was to identify the participants’ interpretations of the appropriateness of the pre-deployment preparation they had received in light of supporting their mental well-being during and after deployment.
The main research questions were: How appropriate was pre-deployment preparation in supporting mental well-being? What elements were lacking, and what else would be useful?
Using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, thematic, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six deployed volunteers of an international emergency-relief organization. Data were analyzed using content analysis.
The participants in this study regarded the pre-deployment preparation they had received, on the whole, as appropriate in supporting their mental well-being. The seven main themes identified as important and supportive of mental well-being were: (1) realistic expectations, (2) team building and support, (3) self-awareness and self-care, (4) post-deployment support, (5) practical skills and creative solutions, (6) shared values and beliefs, and (7) safety and security. Specific areas identified as lacking within these themes included communication, self-care, post-deployment support, and safety and security.
Themes identified as important for supporting mental well-being in this research largely were consistent with those in previous research. The generally positive experiences of the support received do not reflect results from existing research, where significant shortcomings in worker support have been expressed. However, important elements were also identified as lacking in this specific pre-deployment preparation.
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