Disaster-Related Mental Health Needs of Women and Children

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

Since the events of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina, the world has become more acutely aware of disasters and their sequelae, and efforts have been made to improve preparedness-related skills of healthcare professionals. One area that requires more skill building concerns the ability to deal with mental health–related needs. Although the appearance of postdisaster psychological symptoms in adults varies, the incidence of psychopathology in women and children is high after disasters. Children are disproportionately affected by disasters, and their special needs have only recently begun to be understood and considered in disaster-related planning. Categories of psychological effects include distress symptoms, risk behaviors, and psychiatric disorders. These issues require ongoing care, not single interventions. This article describes how maternal child health nurses can develop and use the requisite skills to effectively assist families to optimize their mental health status and prevent sequelae after a disaster.

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