Psychological Services

Interventions in the Post-impact Phase

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Interventions in the Post-impact Phase

It is in the postimpact phase that organised psychological service providers have traditionally started their work. Yet starting only in this phase may be associated with initial lack of trust and credibility. More ideally, in this phase prior networks have been activated and integrated into a seamless effective service with community and emergency service agencies.
It is desirable that all service interventions be psychologically informed. Expert advice and consultancy needs to be provided at all hierarchical levels, ranging from government, through emergency and recovery managers, to affected communities. Information should be dispersed about usual post-disaster community responses such as post-disaster euphoria, tendency to find scapegoats and convergence phenomena. Myths about the frequency of panic, looting, unbounded heroism and capacity to recover, as well as pessimistic assessments of permanent damage need countering with proper information. Special care should be taken that media reporters are properly informed and that they themselves are not overoptimistic or on the other hand overwhelming.
Information is widely distributed about the ubiquity, normality and sense of many biological, psychological and social responses, negative judgements such as guilt, shame and sense of injustice, as well as emergence of negative meanings. All means of communication are utilised, including radio,
television, newspapers, internet, telephone hotlines, newsletters, pamphlets
(such as the Red Cross pamphlets distributed at Australian disasters),
posters, community meetings and interpersonal communication.

In this phase realistic causes of the disaster and realistic stocktaking of losses and public mourning for them should be facilitated, helping progress in the assimilation of the disaster.

In this phase many aid agencies and individuals stream into the area. Help is much appreciated if well tailored, but may have adverse effects if part of convergence and competition for victims. Psychological service providers may counter these phenomena by bringing them to the attention of managers and helping them to be discerning about the aid offered. They may help to coordinate quality aid and to halt inappropriate help and voyeurism.
Communities and workers need to have a mutual understanding of losses,
needs, available resources and knowledge of the systems by which to access and distribute them. Aid workers should be facilitated to tailor distribution of resources according to need, priorities and to help expeditiously and efficiently. Consultation will ensure that aid is given with compassion yet generosity of spirit, with grace, maintaining dignity and respect for the helped.

This may preempt later community tensions, anger, envy, greed and sense of unfairness and injustice.
Vulnerable groups such as orphans, bereaved, homeless, isolated, non-
English speaking, should be identified and early specialist treatment (e.g.,
crisis counselling, bereavement counselling) provided. Secondarily affected groups, such as relatives, should be identified and catered for, as are those who have left the district.

Aid workers and the communities they cater for need to be educated about the natural ambivalence to aid. Truly unfeeling unsympathetic and unjust services may be stressful and even traumatogenic. Their effects may compound with earlier states and add to states of helplessness and rage.

Psychological service providers may diagnose and ameliorate these interactions, build helpful bridges, educate, resolve conflicts or advocate on behalf of some victims.
Communication channels should be used and enlarged to increasingly empower communities to seek their own help and eventually to help themselves. This decreases a sense of dependency and increases self- esteem.
Aid workers should themselves be educated about secondary stress effects and their prevention and help is given them as required.

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