Disaster Mental Health

Supporting disaster mental health responses in the Solomon Islands

March 27, 2013

On 6th February 2013, an 8.0 earthquake occurred close to Santa Cruz Island, Temotu Province in the Solomon Islands, generating a tsunami.  The National Disaster Council reported 10 fatalities and 15 injured, with 588 houses destroyed and 478 damaged.  Approximately 4,500 people, or 37% of the population of Santa Cruz Island were significantly affected with more than 130 aftershocks.  The loss of life, serious injuries, damaged homes and property, family separation, and displacement have resulted in serious trauma and disruption in people’s lives.

Following the national disaster, the Division of Mental Health, Ministry of Health and Medical Services hosted a Mental Health Disaster Preparedness Training/Workshop on 18 – 19 March 2013.  This was co-facilitated by Asia-Australia Mental Health and the Australian Red Cross.

The workshop supported the development and organisation of locally appropriate mental health and psychosocial support programs and documentation.  These promoted self-help, coping and resilience among affected people.  Stakeholders from the mental health services and disaster response joined in discussions on how mental health and psychosocial support may be appropriately resourced and administered in the national disaster management plan.  This would lead to enhanced service provision of important disaster mental health services.

This international collaboration highlighted the many opportunities for learning from the Pacific region in disaster responses, where a great diversity of providers in the field warrants a concerted approach to disaster mental health workforce planning.  The workshop dialogue concurs with recently published research in Australia which found that training, supervision and opportunities for involvement were key enablers of effective participation in disaster mental health responses.1

We are grateful that this training was supported under the AusAID Public Sector Linkages Program (PSLP).

1 Reifels, L., Naccarella, L., Blashki, G., Pirkis, J. Victorian Disaster Mental Health Workforce Capacity Survey: Final Project Report October 2012