chapter  19
Psychosocial aspects of disasters
Pages 10

Disasters can have a significant impact on mental health, which can be aggravated by poor forward planning and inadequate management of the recovery phase (Raphael 1986). People respond to traumatic events in different ways yet psychosocial research in this area has predominantly focused on the detrimental impacts of exposure. For example, a meta-analysis of the health impacts of natural disasters (Ahern et al. 2005) revealed increased levels of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as physical symptoms of disease. However, it is a minority of people that will sustain a serious mental illness (Briere and Elliott 2000), and the majority of these will respond, recover and return to pre-event functioning (Bonanno et al. 2011). Traumatic experiences can provide a catalyst for significant positive changes termed ‘post-traumatic growth’ (Calhoun and Tedeschi 2006). It is essential to stress that most people recover from traumatic events in very sound ways psychologically. It is also important to recognise that post-event reactions/behaviours which may be different from the way in which the individual behaves in normal circumstances, are not necessarily a symptom of psychopathology. Rather, responses are likely to be normal reactions to extraordinary events.