What Every Psychiatrists Should Know about the Mental Health Effects of Natural and Man-Made Disasters and Emergencies

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Presenting Author(s): Dr. Vincent I.O. Agyapong, MD, PhD

Date and time: 23 Mar 2019 from 14:10 to 14:50

Location: Wildrose Salon C  Floor Map


  1. Conference participants would have a better appreciation of the types of man-made and natural disasters and emergencies that could impact mental health of a population;
  2. Conference participants would have an appreciation of socio-demographic and clinical as well as exposure related vulnerability correlates for the common mental disorders experienced at the population level after man-made and natural disasters and emergencies; and
  3. Conference participants would have an appreciation of socio-demographic, clinical and other protective correlates for the common mental disorders experienced at the population level after man-made and natural disasters and emergencies.

Literature References

  1. Guo et. al., Suicidality associated with PTSD, depression, and disaster recovery status among adult survivors 8 years after the 2008
    Wenchuan earthquake in China. Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jul;253:383-390. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.04.022
  2. Liang et. al., Posttraumatic stress disorder following the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake: A 10-year systematic review among highly
    exposed populations in China. J Affect Disord. 2019 Jan 15;243:327-339. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.09.047
  3. Chatterjee et. al. Risk Factors for Depression Among Civilians After the 9/11 World Trade Center Terrorist Attacks: A Systematic
    Review and Meta-Analysis PLoS Curr. 2018 Mar 30;10. pii: ecurrents. doi:10.1371/currents.dis.6a00b40c8ace0a6a0017361d7577c50a.
  4. Nq, Early life sexual abuse is associated with increased suicide attempts: An update meta-analysis. J Psychiatr Res. 2018
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    Study. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 28;9:393. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00393.
  7. Obradovich Empirical evidence of mental health risks posed by climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Oct 8. pii:
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  10. Waite,The English national cohort study of flooding and health: cross-sectional analysis of mental health outcomes at year one.
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  11. Agyapong V.I.O. et. al. Prevalence rates and Correlates of Probable Major Depressive Disorder in residents of Fort Mc Murray Six
    Months after a Wildfire. Int J Ment Health Addict 2018


Man-made and natural disasters often create humanitarian crisis and emergencies. These emergencies often lead to a wide range of
problems which are experienced at the individual, family, community and societal levels. At every level, emergencies erode protective
supports that are normally available, increase the risks of diverse problems and tend to amplify preexisting problems. Man-made
disasters such as wars, sexual violence, hunger and terror attacks, and natural disasters including wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and
earthquakes do not only affect victims and communities in the short term but also in the medium and long term. Apart from the material
loss that often results from disasters and emergencies, the mental health effects on affected victims and communities have been well
researched, including in Alberta. The recent wildfires in Fort McMurray and British Columbia, the terror attacks in Toronto, Quebec City
and Edmonton, the floods in Slave Lake and Calgary, and the daily histories of childhood sexual trauma elicited by psychiatrists in
Alberta during psychiatric history taking bring to bear the importance of providing education to mental health professionals and
psychiatrists on the potential mental health effects of these man-made disasters and emergencies as part of a public health and disaster
preparedness strategy which will help the mental health community in Alberta and Alberta Health Services respond better to future
humanitarian disasters.

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