, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 5-11
Date: 27 Jan 2009

Psychological impact of disasters on children: review of assessment and interventions

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Abstract

Background

There is a wide range of mental and behavioral sequel in children following disasters, which can last long. This review discusses the nature and extent of the psychiatric problems, their management options and process to organize the psychological interventions for affected children.

Data sources

Literatures were searched through PubMed with the words “children, disaster, psychiatry, and mental health” and relevant cross references were included in the review.

Results

Proportions of children having posttraumatic symptoms or syndromal diagnoses vary in different studies depending on various factors like nature and severity of disaster, diagnostic criteria used, cultural issues regarding meaning of trauma, support available, etc. Common psychiatric manifestations among children include acute stress reactions, adjustment disorder, depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders specific to childhood and psychotic disorders. Comorbidities and sub-clinical syndromes are also common. Most of the post-disaster mental health interventions can be provided in the community by the local disaster workers. Supportive counselling, cognitive behavior therapy, brief trauma/grief-focused psychotherapy, and play therapy are the commonly utilized methods of psychological intervention, which can be given in groups. Information about the efficacy of medications is still emerging, while many are being used and found useful.

Conclusions

Following disaster, systematic screening for psychological problems in children is suggested. An integrated approach using psycho-socio-educational and clinical interventions is expected to be effective.