Disaster and Mental Health

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Natural Disaster and Mental Health:
A Reflection Paper on Analyzing the Development and Environment (ADE) By Selahuddin Yu Hashim
MDM 2013

When mother earth rages escaping from it is an almost impossible mission to achieve. Even nations with the most sophisticated technology may find it difficult to counter the destructive effect of natural disaster. And even if one is able to lessen its impact, it still results in devastation of the land affecting many people. The experience in Mt. Pinatubo in 1996 is more than an evidence of this devastation.

Natural disasters cause damage of property and loss of life and most of the time leaves economic damage in its wake. The resilience of the affected population or its ability to recover indicates the severity of which. In a vulnerable area, typhoon, flood, earthquake, tsunami and others can have disastrous consequences and leave lasting damage.

Due to its topographical location, the Philippines is always visited by typhoons and other calamities affecting mainly areas in Luzon and Visayas. Recently, Mindanao has been devastated with series of typhoons and tropical storms. In 2011, the tropical storm Washi or Sendong heavily affected areas of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) estimated that around 69,755 households were affected. Of these, almost 300 thousand people have been displaced. In December of 2012, the typhoon Pablo hit Eastern Mindanao including Caraga and Davao (Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental) regions.

Most of the people affected are working in the farm, unskilled/skilled labors or workers and many of them belong to the poor family. A survey conducted by Shelter Cluster Organization shows that almost 80% percent of the displaced families live below the poverty threshold even prior to the Sendong incident. The demography is generally young, 11%of which are children under the age of five (5) and 3% being infants.

Given the demography and socio-economic profile of the victims, it appears that the natural disasters have even exacerbated the already impoverished situation of the people. Specifically, they have greater impact to the well-being of the people.

Hence, this paper is a short presentation on one of the most important but neglected immediate effect of calamities and natural disasters to the ability of the family or individual to respond to their mental well-being. It also provides a short recommendation on how to integrate efforts on disaster risk reduction and mitigation program.

No Health without Mental Health: A Post-Disaster Tragedy
The damage caused by Typhoon Washi (Sendong) in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan last December 2011 has been devastating in terms of loss of lives, infrastructure, and livelihood. Involuntary displacement brought about by natural calamity is one of the most stressful human experience and detrimental to livelihoods, welfare and social cohesion. It is often associated with multiple and prolonged exposure to three groups of stressors: loss (of family, homes, possession, and identity); deprivation (of basic needs, normal life and safety); and, trauma (from experiencing or experiencing near-death situation, etc.). These conditions, along with an uncertain future and a constant state of insecurity, put great psychological stress on families and communities.

Moreover, short- and long-term psychosocial effects on survivors and their support networks in the community are to be expected. This can also be related to the fact that it would take a longer period of time for both Iligan and CDO to recover from the wrat of Tropical Storm Washi or Sendong (TS Sendong). During the interagency initial rapid assessment conducted in 2012, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) has been identified as an important needs along with shelter, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and food security. The suicide of one of the Sendong survivors, the reported suicidal...
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