What is being done to help survivors cope psychologically?

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Q: What should be done to help survivors cope with the psychological impact of the tsunami?

A: People affected by a catastrophe like the tsunami of 26 December 2004 are exposed to extreme stress factors. These include personal danger, loss of kin, livelihood, homes, etc. Such stress increases the risk of mental health problems. As most people affected by this disaster live in resource-poor countries, the provision of assistance is difficult. Mental health concerns should complement humanitarian work in the first days of the aftermath, and should not unduly burden the relief operations to provide vital needs such as food, shelter and control of communicable diseases.

A comprehensive strategic plan to address psychosocial needs and emerging psychiatric disorders in the population affected by the tsunami in the Aceh region, Indonesia, has been finalized by WHO. The plan addresses several issues including: assessment of mental health needs, mapping of mental health activities in Aceh, provision of guidelines, training of community leaders and strengthening of the mental health care system including the Aceh Psychiatric Hospital. It also provides a detailed description of necessary actions during the emergency, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases.