I’ve got an article in today’s Observer about how disaster response mental health services are often based on the erroneous assumption that everyone needs ‘treatment’ and often rely on single-session counselling sessions which may do more harm than good.
Unfortunately, the article has been given a rather misleading headline (‘Minds traumatised by disaster heal themselves without therapy’) which suggests that mental health services are not needed. This is not the case and this is not what the article says.
What it does say is that the common idea of disaster response is that everyone affected by the tragedy will need help from mental health professionals when only a minority will.
It also says that aid agencies often use single-session counselling sessions which have been found to raise the risk of long-term mental health problems. This stems from a understandable desire to ‘do something’ but this motivation is not enough to actually help.
Disaster, war, violence and conflict, raise the number of mental health problems in the affected population. The appropriate response is to build or enhance high-quality, long-term, culturally relevant mental health services – not parachuting in counsellors to do single counselling sessions.
Link to article on disaster response psychology in The Observer.