On the relativity of the mental health consequences of disasters
Thesis Michel Dückers (2019)
Increased occurrence of specific mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, is typically evident after disasters. These health issues are more common in more affluent, less vulnerable countries. The capacity to provide professional support and care after disasters is also more developed in these countries. This emerges in ARQ professor Michel Dückers’ thesis.
In his thesis, Michel Dückers discusses comparative country studies that offer insights into:
- the link between trauma-related mental health problems
- cultural characteristics of populations
- countries’ vulnerability to major disruptions and disasters
- professional capacity to provide psychosocial aftercare
Quality of aftercare following disasters and crises
The thesis also focuses on the quality of aftercare following disasters and crises. Is there consensus among experts and professionals on guidelines and the extent to which psychosocial aftercare principles are applied in a disaster context? What do such recommendations and principles mean from a quality improvement and crisis management perspective? Dückers reflects on these and other questions and interprets them in the light of country studies.
Dückers deduces that, in our safe, well-organised countries with good healthcare systems and high life expectancy, we are more susceptible to PTSD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance use and abuse, and to suicide. 'Perhaps we have higher expectations about life in our organised, predictable society. Perhaps we as people have become less accustomed to the kind of setbacks that are commonplace in more vulnerable countries like Nigeria or Haiti. The Netherlands invariably tops every list of any significance. Paradoxically, also with regard to mental health problems. At the same time, by international comparison, we have a high-quality, accessible healthcare system with many skilled professionals.'
Translating guidelines to Dutch practice
Ultimately, this knowledge will help governments and professionals tailor guidelines more effectively to the Dutch context. Dutch guidelines and standards are currently largely based on knowledge derived from research in other countries. Insight into contextual differences is indispensable to the translation to Dutch practice. Furthermore, the thesis emphasises how little was yet known in 2019 about the effect of aftercare programmes on the health and well-being of those affected after disasters.
ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre