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Rescuers’ Mental Cries for Help February 2, 2009

Posted by Joy Lee in Occupational Health.
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In any disaster event, we tend to view victims as those people affected directly by the hazard, but we rarely think of the victims as the emergency responders of such events.  However, emergency responders often suffer severe mental stress after the event.  Emergency responders often undergo rigorous pressure and stress to rescue and protect the general public in catastrophic events, and they often forget about their own health during the event.  Unfortunately, emergency responder mental health is an issue that is most often overlooked, either deliberately or not, in the realm of public health and should be made a priority in emergency health services and medicine.

Conversely, despite the current lack of attention by health officials, there are several precautions that disaster responders should make sure they perform in order to help lessen mental stress during the event, such as having adequate amount of rests during working time.  Post-disaster, more mental health resources should be made available not only to the victims, but to the emergency responders as well.  For example, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a website dedicated to disaster mental health for responders.  The page contains information on normal reactions to disasters, signs of possible mental health problems and ways to manage mental health.  In addition, it is necessary to recognize that disaster mental health differs from general mental health due to the severity and complexity of the issue.  Finally, it would also be useful for local emergency offices to develop a relationship with mental health professionals so that when the time actually comes, help is right where you need it.  Mental health is an issue that public health officials should prioritize, since a healthy mind is an essential part of a healthy person.

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