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Most staff stay healthy during humanitarian work, although some worsen. Mean scores on health indicators may be masking individual participants struggling with health issues.
To investigate different field assignment-related health trajectories among international humanitarian aid workers (iHAWs) and explore the mechanisms used to stay healthy.
Growth mixture modelling analyses for five health indicators using pre-/post-assignment and follow-up data.
Among 609 iHAWs three trajectories (profiles) were found for emotional exhaustion, work engagement, anxiety and depression. For post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, four trajectories were identified. The ‘healthy/normative’ trajectory had the largest sample size for all health indicators (73–86%). A stable (moderate) ‘ill health’ trajectory was identified for all health indicators (7–17%), except anxiety. An ‘improving’ trajectory was found for PTSD and anxiety symptoms (5–14%). A minority of staff (4–15%) worsened on all health indicators. Deterioration continued for PTSD, depressive symptoms and work engagement 2 months post-assignment. A strong sense of coherence was associated with higher odds of belonging to the ‘healthy’ trajectory. Female biological sex was associated with higher odds of belonging to the ‘worsening’ depression and anxiety trajectories. Extended duration of field assignment was related to higher odds of belonging to the ‘worsening’ depressive symptoms trajectory.
Most iHAWs stayed healthy during their assignment; a stable ‘ill health’ trajectory was identified for most health indicators. Sense of coherence is an important mechanism for understanding the health of all iHAWs in the different health trajectories, including the ‘healthy’ profile. These findings give new possibilities to develop activities to prevent worsening health and help strengthen iHAWs’ ability to remain healthy under stress.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a first-line treatment for adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some clinicians argue that with refugees, directly targeting traumatic memories through EMDR may be harmful or ineffective.
To determine the safety and efficacy of EMDR in adult refugees with PTSD (trial registration: ISRCTN20310201).
In total, 72 refugees referred for specialised treatment were randomly assigned to 12 h of EMDR (3×60 min planning/preparation followed by 6×90 min desensitisation/reprocessing) or 12 h (12×60 min) of stabilisation. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) and Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) were primary outcome measures.
Intention-to-treat analyses found no differences in safety (one severe adverse event in the stabilisation condition only) or efficacy (effect sizes: CAPS –0.04 and HTQ 0.20) between the two conditions.
Directly targeting traumatic memories through 12 h of EMDR in refugee patients needing specialised treatment is safe, but is only of limited efficacy.
This study examines late consequences of war and migration in both non-clinical and clinical samples of child survivors of World War II. This is one of the very few studies on the mental health of children who were subjected to internment in camps, hiding, and violence under Japanese occupation in the Far East. It provides a unique case to learn about the significance of experiences of war and migration in later life.
Long-term sequelae of the Japanese persecution in the Dutch East Indies (DEI) in child survivors were studied by analyzing sets of standardized questionnaires of 939 persons. Instruments dealt with post-traumatic responses, general health, and dissociation. Participants were recruited through community services and registers of clinical services. Discriminant analyses were conducted to evaluate the significance of early experiences in determining group belonging.
Compared with age-matched controls that lived through the German occupation in the Netherlands during World War II, the child survivors from the DEI reported both more trauma-related experiences and mental health disturbances in later life. In particular, the number of violent events during the war, among which especially internment in a camp, contributed to the variation among groups, in support of the significance of these disruptive experiences at older age.
The results underline the long-term significance of World War II-related traumatic experiences in the population of elderly child survivors who spent their childhood in the former DEI.
Very little is known on the impact of recurrent disasters on mental health.
The present study examines the immediate impact of a recurrent flood on mental health and functioning among an affected population in the rural district of Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, India, compared with a population in the same region that is not affected by floods.
The study compared 318 affected respondents with 308 individuals who were not affected by floods. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were assessed by the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 (HSCL-25). Psychological and physical functioning was assessed by using the Short Form-12 (SF-12).
The affected group showed large to very large differences with the comparison group on symptoms of anxiety (D = .92) and depression (D = 1.22). The affected group scored significantly lower on psychological and physical functioning than the comparison group (respectively D = .33 and D = .80). However, hierarchical linear regressions showed no significant relationship between mental health and the domains of functioning in the affected group, whereas mental health and the domains of functioning were significantly related in the comparison group.
This study found a large negative impact of the recurrent floods on mental health outcomes and psychological and physical functioning. However, in a context with recurrent floods, disaster mental health status is not a relevant predictor of functioning. The findings suggest that the observed mental health status and impaired functioning in this context are also outcomes of another mechanism: Both outcomes are likely to be related to the erosion of the social and environmental and material context. As such, the findings refer to a need to implement psychosocial context-oriented interventions to address the erosion of the context rather than specific mental health interventions.
WindTR, JoshiPC, KleberRJ, KomproeIH. The Impact of Recurrent Disasters on Mental Health: A Study on Seasonal Floods in Northern India. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2013;28(3):1-7.
Disaster research suggests that immigrant groups who are affected by a disaster receive less emotional support than their native counterparts. However, it is unclear to what extent these differences can be attributed to post-disaster mental health problems or whether they were present before the event.
To examine the association between lack of social support, immigration status and victim status, as well as differences in support between immigrants and Dutch natives with disaster-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Social support and psychological distress were assessed among immigrants and Dutch natives, among affected and non-affected individuals 4 years post disaster. Post-traumatic stress disorder was examined in the affected groups.
Affected immigrants more often lacked various kinds of perceived social support compared with affected Dutch natives. Remarkably, we found no differences in support between affected immigrants and non-affected immigrants. Immigrants with PTSD differ on only two out of six aspects of support from the Dutch natives with PTSD.
Results clearly indicate that differences in support between immigrants and Dutch natives are not so much a consequence of the disaster but were largely present before the disaster.
This chapter overviews the current literature on substance use after disasters in affected populations. Several studies examined different aspects of substance use, such as prevalence, comorbidity, correlates and/or predictors of alcohol, tobacco and drugs use. The chapter outlines the prevalence of substance dependency-abuse, changes in substance use, and associations between substance use and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems after different categories of disasters. It describes the associations between substance use and mental health disturbances after several types of disasters. The chapter presents correlates of substance use or misuse in detail, that is, (independent) predictors of substance use, as well as substance use as a (independent) predictor for PTSD and other postdisaster mental health disturbances. It focuses on residents affected by natural and technological disasters as well as disasters caused by mass violence and terrorism.
Background. Little is known about the correspondence between persistent self-reported disaster-related psychological problems and these problems reported by general practitioners (GPs). The aim of this study is to analyse this correspondence and to identify the factors associated with GPs' detection of persistent psychological problems.
Method. This study was conducted in a sample of 879 adult disaster-affected victims, taken from two longitudinal sources: the Enschede Firework Disaster Study and the GP-Monitor Study. Participants filled out a questionnaire 2–3 weeks and 18 months post-disaster and these data were combined with data from a GP-monitor collected up to 18 months post-disaster. The correspondence between persistent self-reported and GP-reported psychological problems was analysed with cross-tabulations. Logistic regression analyses were performed to identify variables which predicted GPs' detection of psychological problems.
Results. The correspondence rate among victims who visited their GP 18 months post-disaster was 60·4% for persistent intrusions and avoidance reactions, 72·6% for persistent general psychological distress and less than 20% for persistent depression and anxiety symptoms or sleep disturbances. Characteristics that predict GPs' identification of post-traumatic reactions or psychological distress were the level of self-reported post-traumatic symptoms/mental health, the number of contacts the victims had with their GP and the level of the victims' disaster-related experiences.
Conclusions. In general, there is a considerable correspondence between GP-reported and persistent self-reported incidences of post-traumatic stress and general psychological distress in disaster-affected victims. However, the correspondence declines in the case of more specific psychological symptoms.
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