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The effectiveness of official support provided following a disaster has not been fully evaluated. This study aimed to ascertain whether there was an association between perceived support shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and later mental health symptoms in those affected, and to explore the factors associated with this. A survey, semi-structured interviews and focus group were used to explore the experiences and perceptions of 116 individuals severely affected by the tsunami.
Agency or official support was perceived as poor overall. Perceived ineffectiveness of support available within a few days after the tsunami was associated with increased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder 15–19 months later. The strongest themes that emerged from our study were that support provided in a humane manner was perceived as effective and that uncoordinated support, poor communication and limited accessibility to support and information were perceived as ineffective.
Improved planning of coordinated, flexible, multi-agency responses to traumatic events before they occur is required.
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