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Trauma Signature Analysis of the Great East Japan Disaster: Guidance for Psychological Consequences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2013

James M. Shultz*
Affiliation:
Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL
David Forbes
Affiliation:
Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, East Melbourne, Australia
David Wald
Affiliation:
US Geological Survey and Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, USA
Fiona Kelly
Affiliation:
Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Helena M. Solo-Gabriele
Affiliation:
Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, University of Miami, College of Engineering, Coral Gables, Florida, USA
Alexa Rosen
Affiliation:
Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL
Zelde Espinel
Affiliation:
Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL
Andrew McLean
Affiliation:
Department of Neuroscience, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Oscar Bernal
Affiliation:
Public Health Programs, University of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia, USA
Yuval Neria
Affiliation:
Trauma and PTSD Program, Columbia University, and Department of Psychiatry, The New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York, USA
*
Address correspondence and reprint requests to James M. Shultz, MS, PhD, Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, 251 174 St, #2319, Sunny Isles Beach FL 33160 (e-mail: jshultz1@med.miami.edu).

Abstract

Objectives

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced the largest earthquake in its history. The undersea earthquake launched a tsunami that inundated much of Japan's eastern coastline and damaged nuclear power plants, precipitating multiple reactor meltdowns. We examined open-source disaster situation reports, news accounts, and disaster-monitoring websites to gather event-specific data to conduct a trauma signature analysis of the event.

Methods

The trauma signature analysis included a review of disaster situation reports; the construction of a hazard profile for the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation threats; enumeration of disaster stressors by disaster phase; identification of salient evidence-based psychological risk factors; summation of the trauma signature based on exposure to hazards, loss, and change; and review of the mental health and psychosocial support responses in relation to the analysis.

Results

Exposure to this triple-hazard event resulted in extensive damage, significant loss of life, and massive population displacement. Many citizens were exposed to multiple hazards. The extremity of these exposures was partially mitigated by Japan's timely, expert-coordinated, and unified activation of an evidence-based mental health response.

Conclusions

The eastern Japan disaster was notable for its unique constellation of compounding exposures. Examination of the trauma signature of this event provided insights and guidance regarding optimal mental health and psychosocial responses. Japan orchestrated a model response that reinforced community resilience. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;0:1-14)

Type
Special Focus
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2013 

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