Provision of mental health services immediately following a natural disaster: Experiences after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Keywords:hurricane, natural disaster, disaster mental health response, psychological first aid
Objective: The increased risk of mental health disorders in the months and years following a natural disaster highlights the need for more immediate preventive intervention. The objective of the current study was to learn from a real-time implementation of a natural disaster response following the Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to identify strategies for providing mental health services immediately after a natural disaster.
Methods: Two focus groups were held with faculty (n = 6) and graduate students (n = 4) from a graduate psychology program at the Universidad Carlos Albizu, Centro Universitario Mayagüez. An additional key informant interview was conducted with two faculty member participants. Data were analyzed qualitatively using thematic analysis.
Results: The delivery of mental health services was organized into three major themes: (1) finding a way to communicate, (2) targeting key access points for outreach and centralization of resources, and (3) providing triaged mental health care based on level of need.
Conclusions: Findings are used to guide recommendations for mental health response preparation in future natural disaster contexts.
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