Mental health framework: coronavirus pandemic in post-Katrina New Orleans
Keywords:Disasters, Racial minorities, Chronic adversity, Acute shocks, Disaster mental health framework
The United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction defines disaster risk as the “likelihood of loss of life, injury or destruction and damage from a disaster in a given period, and a product of the complex interactions that generate conditions of exposure, vulnerability and hazard”. Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States have been shown to have increased vulnerability and risk to disasters due to links between racism, vulnerability, and economic power, based on disadvantage related to different disaster stages: 1) reduced perception of personal disaster risk; 2) lack of preparedness; 3) reduced access and response to warning systems; 4) increased physical impacts due to substandard housing; 5) likelihood of poorer psychological outcomes; 6) cultural insensitivity on the part of emergency workers; 7) marginalization, lower socio-economic status, and less familiarity with support resources leading to protracted recovery; and 8) diminished standard of living, job loss, and exacerbated poverty during reconstruction and community rebuilding. Moreover, given that psychiatric morbidity is predictable in populations exposed to disasters, mental health and psychosocial support programs should increasingly become a standard part of a humanitarian response. In the crisis and immediate recovery phase of disasters, the focus should be on making survivors feel safe and giving them assistance in decreasing their anxiety by addressing their basic needs and welfare. So, it is critical that governmental institutions, business, and non-profit organizations proactively find mechanisms to work collaboratively and share resources. Special attention and extra resources must be directed towards vulnerable and marginalized populations. In this editorial we share lessons learned from experiencing disproportionate impact of health crisis and advocate for the notion that recovery efforts must address trauma at individual, interpersonal and community levels, and be based in a healing justice framework.
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