In the aftermath of tragedy: Medical and psychiatric consequences

  • Nemeroff C
  • Goldschmidt-Clermont P
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Comments on an article by Kathleen Molly McShane (see record 2011-00678-003). Molly McShane, shares her remarkable experiences as a volunteer in Haiti. Two of the major tenets of psychiatry that we traditionally highlight to trainees are that "life is uncertain" and "bad things happen to good people." In the last several years, natural disasters such as the tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka; Hurricane Katrina that decimated New Orleans; terrorist acts including the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks; and ongoing military conflicts that expose our valiant troops and civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa have focused our attention on the psychiatric aftermath of such cataclysmic traumatic events. Unfortunately, as noted in Dr. McShane's article, the availability of inpatient and outpatient psychiatric facilities, trained mental health professionals, and psychopharmacological medications in Haiti was severely limited prior to the earthquake. Unfortunately, the cultural climate in Haiti is antithetical to early recognition and treatment of psychiatric illness and this further contributed to the burden of psychiatric morbidity after the earthquake. Immediate intervention for medical-surgical and psychiatric consequences of trauma will surely reduce the resultant morbidity and mortality associated with such events. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)

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