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The U.S. Response To Mental Health Conditions During And After Natural Disasters

The American population had suf­fered extensive damage caused by major hurricanes, during the past century. Individuals, forced to be internally displaced and sepa­rated from their relatives, suffered several psychological distress symptoms. For example, after hurricanes Andrews (1992), Katrina (2005), Rita (2005), and Wilma (2005), Harvey (2017), researchers found an increase of distress symptoms identified as: anxiety, irritability, suicidal ideation, depression, PTSD, psychotic disorders, sleep deprivation, and feel­ings of sadness. Most of these symptoms were identified in minority groups such as Latino and African Americans, and mostly in women. (North CS, Kawasaki A, et al. 2004).

These problems were aggravated due the lack of income and access to healthcare. Be­cause the culture of the country, Americans of­ten take prescribed Western type medications to treat anxiety, depression, and many other disorders which might require the intervention of mental health specialists. Many individuals live years with these symptoms, because they lack resources to receive therapy.

The Federal Agency Management (FEMA), often works to provide logistics such as: shelters, food, water, etc., after the occurrence of major catastrophes. Unfortunately, there is no government plan to provide mental health services to victims of natural disasters, despite many studies conducted by universities, mental health associations and the scientific communi­ty, showing the positive effect of these methods. Decades later, victims of natural disasters were found using opioids to treat anxiety, depres­sion, sleep deprivation, and many other mental disorders. (Weisler RH, Barbee JG IV, et al. 2006)

Japan Response to Mental Health Condi­tions during and After Natural Disasters

In March 2011, Japan had suffered a major ca­tastrophe in its modern history. An earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami, caused major damages at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Because of this tragedy, Fukushima was heavily contaminated by radia­tion, a hazard requiring the evacuation of the entire population around the contaminated area. Similarly, to the U.S., Japanese evacuees also suffered from emotional distress due the separation of family members and the uncer­tainty of when they could return home. These symptoms included insomnia and many other stress related illnesses. The lack of resource to continue treating individuals, who were receiv­ing treatment with Western medicine, and who presented prolonged symptoms of illness, created an opportunity of using alternative medicines. After that, the integrative method­ology using CAM therapy, became part of the medical option by many Japanese citizens.

Because of the lack of water, proper sani­tation, and available medications, specialists in integrative medicine, were invited to relief stress, chronic pain, muscular stiffness, and emotional distress, using Acupuncture and Massage Therapy. Consequently, over 94% of evacuees who received holistic treatment, found emotional and physical relief after the sessions, which also improved their lives in the shelters. The psychological stress suffered by many evacuees, was relieved by Comple­mentary Alternative Treatment. This situation offered a fantastic opportunity to treat patients during and after the emergencies with remark­able results, improving their quality of life. (Suzuki Y, Kamiya K, 2006)

Psychological distress among evacuees is similar in Japan and the United States, during and after major natural disasters. The effective­ness of Integrative Medicine using Western medicine, thus Complementary Alternative Medicine methods, to treat evacuees and af­fected population in Japan, has been proven to be a great asset to improve health conditions, during and after catastrophes, consequently, helping to improve the life of the affected population.


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