Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)

Volume 6 Number 1 (2014)

Mental Health Worker Roles Post-Disaster: An Integrative Review

Kim Ushera, Cindy Woodsb and Caryn Westc
School of Nursing, Midwifery & Nutrition, James Cook University, PO Box 6811,Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia.


Background: Mental health workers play an important role in caring for traumatised people after a disaster. While there is much literature about disaster responses, little has been written from the perspective of mental health workers.

Aim: The aim of this integrative review is to explore the current evidence related to the personal and professional responses to the impact of a disaster; the roles, actions, involvement, psychological preparation and reactions of mental health workers working in the aftermath of a disaster.

Methods: Relevant literature published between 1996 and 2012 was identified through electronic databases. Articles were reviewed if they discussed the roles of mental health workers in communities post disaster. Thirty-one peer reviewed journal articles met the inclusion criteria.

Results: Two themes emerged relating to the tasks, roles, skills and actions mental health workers perform during a disaster response, and the emotional impact of the work on the mental health workers.

Conclusions: Findings identified a gap in the literature about the education and preparedness of mental health workers to support traumatised survivors immediately after a disaster, and the long-term impact of a disaster on mental health workers who are themselves survivors yet continue to provide care to others in affected communities.

Keyword: Disasters, Community mental health services, Disaster relief planning, Survivors.

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