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Natural and man-made disasters carry with them major burden and very often the focus is on immediate survival and management of resulting infectious diseases. The impact of disasters directly and indirectly on the well-being and mental health of those affected often gets ignored. The reasons are often stigma and lack of attention to mental health consequences. In addition, often the focus is on preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as waterborne or airborne diseases. This is further complicated by the fact that often aid agencies in offering aid tend to focus on communicable diseases and not on mental health of populations. This focus may reflect easily to measure outcomes in comparison with mental illnesses as the global burden of disease is likely to increase in the next few decades. There is an urgent need to apply the principles of social justice on social and health care policies, which will lead to elimination of stigma. In this article, we propose that the impact of mental illness as a result of disasters needs to be taken seriously in any planning and delivery of relief. Mental health is likely to be affected both directly and indirectly as a result of disasters and also likely to be influenced by ongoing factors such as poor housing, overcrowding and other social determinants. In addition to deliver equity between physical and mental illnesses, appropriate and adequate resources are needed so that identifiable needs can be met with clear outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Soc Psychiatry

Publication Date





778 - 785


Disaster, relief, stigma, Disaster Planning, Disasters, Health Policy, Health Services Needs and Demand, Humans, Mental Disorders, Mental Health, Mental Health Services, Social Determinants of Health, Social Justice