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The objective of this preliminary study was to evaluate the perceptions of internationally deployed Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) personnel regarding the psychosocial support needs of these teams.
The DMAT questionnaire was sent to 34 members of Australian medical teams involved in deployments to the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami and the 2006 Java earthquake. Twenty personnel (59%) completed this survey, which reviewed key deployment stressors, specific support strategies, and the support needs of team members, their families, and team leaders. A key aspect of the survey was to determine whether the perceived psychosocial needs would be supported best within with existing provisions and structures, or if they would be enhanced by further provisions, including the deployment of mental health specialists.
There was strong support for brief reviews of stress management strategies as part of the pre-deployment briefing, and access to written stress management information for both team members and their families. However, more comprehensive provisions, including pre-deployment, stressmanagement training programs for personnel and intra-deployment family support programs, received lower levels of support. The availability of mental health-related training for the team leader role and access to consultation with mental health specialists was supported, but this did not extend to the actual deployment of mental health specialists.
In this preliminary study, clear trends toward the maintenance of current mental health support provisions and the role of the DMAT leader were evident. A follow-up study will examine the relationship between teamleader, psychosocial support strategies and team functioning.
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