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      Increasing the provision of mental health care for vulnerable, disaster-affected people in Bangladesh


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          Bangladesh has the highest natural disaster mortality rate in the world, with over half a million people lost to disaster events since 1970. Most of these people have died during floods or cyclones, both of which are likely to become more frequent due to global climate change. To date, the government’s post-disaster response strategy has focused, increasingly effectively, on the physical needs of survivors, through the provision of shelter, food and medical care. However, the serious and widespread mental health consequences of natural disasters in Bangladesh have not yet received the attention that they deserve. This Debate article proposes a practical model that will facilitate the provision of comprehensive and effective post-disaster mental health services for vulnerable Bangladeshis on a sustainable basis.


          A series of socially determined factors render the women and the poor of Bangladesh particularly vulnerable to dying in natural disasters; and, for those who survive, to suffering from some sort of disaster-related mental health illness. For women, this is largely due to the enforced gender separation, or purdah, that they endure; while for the poor, it is the fact that they are, by definition, only able to afford to live in the most climatically dangerous, and under-served parts of the country. Although the disasters themselves are brought by nature, therefore, social determinants increase the vulnerability of particular groups to mental illness as a result of them. While deeply entrenched, these determinants are at least partially amenable to change through policy and action.


          In response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the World Health Organisation developed a framework for providing mental health and psychosocial support after major disasters, which, we argue, could be adapted to Bangladeshi post-cyclone and post-flood contexts. The framework is community-based, it includes both medical and non-clinical components, and it could be adapted so that women and the poor are actively sought out and provided for. After training, these services could be run by Bangladesh’s pre-existing 50,000-strong Cyclone Preparedness Programme workforce, alongside the country’s extensive network of community-based health workers.

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          Most cited references8

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          60,000 disaster victims speak: Part I. An empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981-2001.

          Results for 160 samples of disaster victims were coded as to sample type, disaster type, disaster location, outcomes and risk factors observed, and overall severity of impairment. In order of frequency, outcomes included specific psychological problems, nonspecific distress, health problems, chronic problems in living, resource loss, and problems specific to youth. Regression analyses showed that samples were more likely to be impaired if they were composed of youth rather than adults, were from developing rather than developed countries, or experienced mass violence (e.g., terrorism, shooting sprees) rather than natural or technological disasters. Most samples of rescue and recovery workers showed remarkable resilience. Within adult samples, more severe exposure, female gender, middle age, ethnic minority status, secondary stressors, prior psychiatric problems, and weak or deteriorating psychosocial resources most consistently increased the likelihood of adverse outcomes. Among youth, family factors were primary. Implications of the research for clinical practice and community intervention are discussed in a companion article (Norris, Friedman, and Watson, this volume).
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            Grand Challenges: Integrating Mental Health Services into Priority Health Care Platforms

            In the last article of a five-part series providing a global perspective on integrating mental health, Vikram Patel and colleagues discuss the competencies, operational innovation, and packages of care needed, and argue that integration will complement primary care system strengthening. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
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              The balanced care model for global mental health.

              For too long there have been heated debates between those who believe that mental health care should be largely or solely provided from hospitals and those who adhere to the view that community care should fully replace hospitals. The aim of this study was to propose a conceptual model relevant for mental health service development in low-, medium- and high-resource settings worldwide. Method We conducted a review of the relevant peer-reviewed evidence and a series of surveys including more than 170 individual experts with direct experience of mental health system change worldwide. We integrated data from these multiple sources to develop the balanced care model (BCM), framed in three sequential steps relevant to different resource settings. Low-resource settings need to focus on improving the recognition and treatment of people with mental illnesses in primary care. Medium-resource settings in addition can develop 'general adult mental health services', namely (i) out-patient clinics, (ii) community mental health teams (CMHTs), (iii) acute in-patient services, (iv) community residential care and (v) work/occupation. High-resource settings, in addition to primary care and general adult mental health services, can also provide specialized services in these same five categories. The BCM refers both to a balance between hospital and community care and to a balance between all of the service components (e.g. clinical teams) that are present in any system, whether this is in low-, medium- or high-resource settings. The BCM therefore indicates that a comprehensive mental health system includes both community- and hospital-based components of care.

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central
                10 July 2014
                : 14
                : 708
                [1 ]Protecting Human Rights (PHR) Program, Plan International Bangladesh, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
                [2 ]Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Umeå University, 91087 Umeå, Sweden
                [3 ]Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta 55281, Indonesia
                Copyright © 2014 Nahar et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                : 4 March 2014
                : 3 July 2014

                Public health
                bangladesh,cyclone,flood,disaster,mental health,vulnerability,gender,poverty,social determinants of health


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