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Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2006 Spring;8(2):101-9.

Expanding disaster mental health response: a conceptual training framework for public health professionals.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA. Ciparker@jhsph.edu


The available research literature suggests that in disasters, individuals presenting acutely with psychologically-related complaints tend to outnumber those presenting with physical symptoms directly stemming from the injury-causing agent or event. This acute "mental health surge" can rapidly overwhelm existing community mental health resources, especially in the context of terrorism. Training professionals from outside the traditional mental health workforce in basic psychological crisis intervention may promote more efficient use of mental health services through a gatekeeper process of early intervention and appropriate referrals to mental health specialists. With their experience in patient and client services at the community level, public health professionals represent a cohort well-suited for training in and delivery of acute mental health services in disasters. In this paper, we outline a conceptual model and rationale for training public health professionals in basic crisis-oriented mental health functions (psychological first aid) in order to augment community-based mental health services for affected populations in a disaster.

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