In relating this blog to my major (psychology) I learned that there is something called disaster psychiatry. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the symptoms that come with it can be a result of many things besides war. Some common psychiatric responses to disaster are: major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD. Following a diagnosis, some immediate post-disaster psychiatric interventions are necessary. Some examples are: establishing safety, encouraging ventilation of feelings, and providing reality orientation.
A recent article in TIME magazine highlights types of psychological first aid that can help, and types that can actually harm victims of disasters; speaking in particular of the recent disaster in Japan. There is a technique called “critical incident stress debriefing” often used by counselors who travel to disaster sites. Research has found that some versions of this technique may actually double the victim’s chance of suffering from PTSD! It is not clear why this is.