The Ministry of Health is the agency responsible for coordinating the provision of psychosocial support at the national level. New Zealand communities are exposed to a broad range of hazards – that is, potential or existing conditions that may harm people and damage property or the social, economic, cultural and natural environments. Many people affected by an emergency will experience some level of distress though for most this is manageable. Understanding how people behave and their mental health needs before, during and after major incidents is of great importance when planning for disasters.
All those involved in an emergency are likely to benefit from some form of psychosocial support and the mechanism and processes to deliver this are holistic and align with population health outcomes. For many, the distress they experience can be eased with the care and support of families, whānau, friends and the community. Others, however, will need more formal or professional intervention and a small proportion of people will need specialised mental health services.
This document is designed to help those involved in planning, coordinating and delivering psychosocial interventions and mental health treatments in an emergency. It is for all agencies, service providers and community groups involved in planning, coordinating and delivering psychosocial support. Supporting individuals, families, whānau and communities to recover from emergencies requires a community-based approach that strives to include community members in all aspects of psychosocial recovery. These aspects include planning and preparedness, assessment of needs, programme development and implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
The primary objectives of psychosocial recovery are to minimise the physical, psychological and social consequences of an emergency and to enhance the emotional, social and physical wellbeing of individuals, families, whānau and communities. Psychosocial recovery is not about returning to normality. It is about positively adapting to a changed reality.
We know emergencies can strike at any time and with any frequency so applying this framework will significantly enhance how our communities cope and recover.