Disaster Behavioral Health : Public Health’s Role in Providing Mental Health Services in Response to Mass Trauma
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Because the potential of exposure to acts of mass violence and terrorism is increasing around the globe, disaster behavioral health has become an essential component of emergency preparedness. Disaster behavioral health accounts for mental health considerations and stress management during a disaster. Substantial efforts have been made toward improving the United States (U.S.) public health system and other medical facilities to ensure effective disaster response is planned for all types of disasters and the consequences of those disasters, including psychological consequences. Due to these consequences, there is a necessity to provide mental health services within a disaster behavioral health response. However, because disaster behavioral health is a relatively new consideration, public health’s role within the mental health arena is often vague. Crucial questions must be asked and addressed, such as, what are the psychological consequences of mass trauma? What gaps within disaster behavioral health are hindering an effective disaster response and whose role is it to fix them? And lastly, at what point does public health’s role infringe on mental health professional’s roles? Clearly defining the roles for public health professionals within a disaster behavioral health response is essential for an effective disaster recovery, as well as for the safety of the communities public health agencies serve. This review explains the current state of disaster behavioral health, gaps within current mental health services, and future guidance. More specifically, the future guidance addressed in this document emphasizes the importance of adding violence prevention efforts in addition to violence preparation. Solely planning without preventative measures places emergency preparedness departments in a passive role, disregarding the fact that prevention is one of the top ten essential services of public health. Lastly, further suggestions discuss increased cultural competency and a more centralized focus on vulnerable populations.
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