According to the World Health Organization and Inter-Agency Standing Committee, mental health needs arising from a humanitarian disaster are best addressed by accessing the existing mental health services, and by capacity building initiatives that improve and extend these, rather than by setting up separate services for disaster survivors. Capacity building of primary health care (PHC) workers on mental health issues is an important part of a humanitarian assistance, but also an essential prerequisite for closing the treatment gap for mental disorders in low and middle-income (LAMI) countries. Effectiveness of interventions to change health professionals’ behavior and practices should be a priority area for researchers in developing countries. Still, there is a limited evidence on effectiveness of mental health training for PHC workers in emergency and post-emergency settings in LAMI countries.
Some 450 million people worldwide currently suffer from some form of mental disease or brain condition, but almost half the countries in the world have no explicit mental health policy and nearly one-third have no program for coping with the rising tide of brain-related disabilities. There is also a growing evidence base on the implementation of mental health programs in developing countries, and manmade and/or natural disasters often provide opportunities to develop mental health services. This paper discusses the mental health needs that arise from disaster situations and several best practices for addressing these needs.