Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychological first aid for survivors of disaster

Date:
October 14, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Even as we breathe a sigh of relief watching the rescue of 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine for more than two months, there is recognition that their recovery from this traumatic experience involves more than just their physical health. But research on the psychological effects of disasters indicates that the risk varies among individuals and, further, that the most common psychological interventions currently in use may actually be harmful in some instances.

Even as we breathe a sigh of relief watching the rescue of 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine for more than two months, there is recognition that their recovery from this traumatic experience involves more than just their physical health.

Related Articles


Survivors of disasters are at significant risk for such problems as post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. But research on the psychological effects of disasters indicates that the risk varies among individuals and, further, that the most common psychological interventions currently in use are at best ineffective and at worst may actually be harmful in some instances. Fortunately, there is strong scientific evidence pointing to the effectiveness of other psychological interventions for disaster survivors.

In an upcoming report on the psychological effects of disasters in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, George A. Bonanno and colleagues note that disasters result in extreme psychological harm in a minority of individuals -- less than 30% of samples (including New Yorkers who lost loved ones on 9/11) experience severe levels of these psychological problems. Just as there are a wide range of problems experienced following disasters, Bonanno and his co-authors observe there are also a number of outcome patterns. Some survivors will exhibit chronic dysfunction but the majority will go on to recover psychological function within a few months or years.

Following disasters, the most common form of immediate psychological intervention is a single session known as critical incident stress debriefing (CISD). However, following a review of studies on the effectiveness of CISD, Bonanno and co-authors conclude that "multiple studies have shown that CISD is not only ineffective but, as suggested earlier, in some cases can actually be psychologically harmful."

In a 2007 report in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Scott O. Lilienfeld shows that a number of psychological therapies, including CISD, especially if forced upon survivors, may actually be harmful.

"The data on crisis debriefing suggest that imposing such interventions on individuals doesn't work and may, paradoxically, increase risk for PTSD," Lilienfeld says. "If any of the miners want to talk to somebody to express their feelings, then by all means mental health professionals should be there to listen to them and support them. But for miners who would prefer not to talk much about the experience, it's best to leave them alone and respect their own coping mechanisms."

According to Bonanno and his co-authors, there are therapies that may be effective in helping survivors recover from disasters. Psychological first aid (PFA) -- which, among other things, provides practical assistance and helps promote a sense of safety and calmness among survivors -- is a promising approach. In addition, community-centered interventions -- those that help maintain a sense of continuity, connectedness, and quality of community life -- may be beneficial to survivors of disasters.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Psychological first aid for survivors of disaster." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014111334.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, October 14). Psychological first aid for survivors of disaster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014111334.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Psychological first aid for survivors of disaster." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014111334.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins