Sunday, April 8, 2012

Man-Made Disasters, Crises, and other Traumatic Events

As media coverage increases the awareness of natural and man-made disasters and the number of these traumatic events increase across world-wide populations, mental health counseling takes the responsibility to ameliorate the psychological trauma stemming from these events. Saleh (1996) posits this study of such trauma "presents one of the greatest challenges to the field of counseling in the twenty-first century" (para. 4).

Perhaps in the wake of the growing field of psychology and more specifically mental health counseling, we have become more aware of the human emotional experience under normal circumstances, and for this discussion in disaster, crisis, and trauma as well. In the past, emphasis has been placed on physical aspects such as saving human life and rebuilding infrastructure, however in contemporary disaster relief efforts, we place equal concern on the emotional aftermath of such crises and disaster, monitoring the long-term effects on individuals, entire communities, and nations (Dingman & Ginter, 1995; Saleh, 1996).

Saleh (1996) further claims these traumatic events not only cause immediate psychological chaos, but provoke long-term worry over one's own human vulnerability. This worry has become pervasive in the 21st century. We are all well aware of the randomness of man-made as well as natural disasters, and this awareness has become an intrusive component in normal daily functioning(Dingman & Ginter, 1995) . Although victims of such crises bear the brunt of emotional devastation, media coverage forces many of us into similar roles of indirect experience, and as we watch global suffering, we also suffer "varying degrees of trauma" (Saleh, 1996, para. 8).

Disasters, crises, and other traumatic events have become an issue central to mental health counseling because previously, neither implementable plans nor specific counselor training were in existence for relieving the psychological repercussions of such events. To provide services, we have to understand how to implement these services, exactly what services benefit the victims, and how these events affect individuals and whole communities (Dingman & Ginter, 1995). According to Saleh (1996), to meet the need, we must be prepared. These unknown factors instigated the focus of disaster response in the mental counseling community, promoting study and investigation into how we can best serve humanity when disaster and crises strike individuals as well as world-wide populations.

The relatively new focus on post trauma mental health implicates psychology and specifically, mental health counseling, for providing adequately trained individuals who can respond appropriately and affect change for trauma victims. Furthermore, to adequately train these individuals, we must have educational programs designed by empirical study. In essence, disaster relief and preparedness has motivated the overhaul of this aspect of mental health counseling.

Dingman, R. L., & Ginter, E. J. (1995). Disasters and crises: The role of mental health counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 17(3), 259-263.

Saleh, M.A. (1996). Disasters and crises: Challenges to mental health counseling in the twenty- first century. Education, 116(4), 519–528.

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