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Monday, March 14, 2011

Japanese need disaster support and help - Maine Psychiatric Physicians suggest assistance

Readers have contacted me via facebook to say the images out of Japan are haunting them.  Victims of other disasters are understandably re-traumatized by the current images of lives lost and the dreadful threat of nuclear plant meltdowns in Japan.  Although attention is focused on the urgency of the immediate needs, the long term emotional impact of this disaster must also be realized.  This article is from today's Maine Medical Association weekly newsletter:

Maine Psychiatrists Respond to Those Affected by Japan Earthquake from Maine Medical Association Newsletter weekly update March 14, 2011:

"Anthony T. Ng, MD FAPA, Medical Director of Psychiatric Emergency Services at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, is a nationally recognized expert in psychiatric responses to disasters and traumatic events."
The Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians (MAPP) joins all Mainers, Americans and the international community in mourning the tragic loss of life that occurred as a result of the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan.
We express our deepest sympathy to the residents of the communities affected by the catastrophe, as well as to our Japanese students and expatriates who live in Maine. We express our support to those who are still awaiting word on the fates of family members, friends, and colleagues in the affected areas. We also wish to convey empathy with those who are experiencing the effects of disruptions of social supports and destruction and loss of property. The grief associated with this disaster is universal, and touches all of our lives.  Psychiatrists, as part of the world medical community, reach out to those who are affected by all forms of disaster. 

Maine psychiatric physicians have an important role to reach out to our communities, including schools and universities that are hosting Japanese students, as well as those who work with these students.  In particular, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals may be called upon to provide treatment for individuals with particular vulnerabilities, including pre-existing mental illnesses, who might become more severely disabled without specialized care. At a broader level, health care and social service providers, and other responders in the community should be aware of strategies for helping to promote people‚Äôs psychosocial wellbeing and resilience and further reduce distress or harm to disaster victims. In addition, MAPP offers a reminder to parents, teachers and the media to limit children's exposure to upsetting images on the television and the Internet.

Anthony T. Ng, MD FAPA, Medical Director of Psychiatric Emergency Services at Acadia Hospital, is a nationally recognized expert in psychiatric responses to disasters and traumatic events.  "People who have been affected directly and indirectly by disasters or traumatic events may experience an array of psychological or bodily reactions, including fear, anxiety, sadness, emotional numbing, sleeplessness, and various bodily ailments such as headaches. Reactions may also include distrust of others and a loss of confidence in themselves," advises Dr. Ng.  "As the world psychiatric community engages the challenge of reaching out to individuals in Japan, it will be particularly crucial that any supportive as well as therapeutic interventions appreciate and respect cultural variations in grief reactions and coping strategies.  It is important for health care providers and others to avoid defining as pathological normal stress responses in disaster situations. Many of these reactions are transient and may resolve. In some instances, however, it may be appropriate for affected persons to seek treatment for trauma-related emotional states."

Individuals seeking information or other resources are encouraged to contact MAPP at 622-7743. Also, the American Psychiatric Association and other organizations have helpful websites where interested individuals can obtain more information about coping with the mental health aspects of disasters.
For more information contact:
Anthony T. Ng, MD FAPA
Medical Director, Psychiatric Emergency Services
Acadia Hospital
Tel: 207-973-6345
James Maier, MD DFAPA
Public Affairs Representative, MAPP
Tel: 207-883-5420
Julie Keller Pease, MD DFAPA
President, MAPP
Tel: 207-409-8621
Contact for questions regarding guidelines for donations of pharmaceuticals:
Stevan Gressitt, M.D.
Executive Committee, MAPP
Founding Director, International Institute for Pharmaceutical Safety
Tel: 207-441-0291
Contact for general questions about Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians:
Warene Eldridge, Executive Director, MAPP
P.O. Box 190, Manchester, ME 04251-1090
Tel: 207-622-7743


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