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August 2, 2006

Rapid Assessments of Mental Health Needs After Disasters

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: School of Psychiatry (Dr Silove) and School of Psychology (Dr Bryant), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; and Centre for Population Mental Health, Sydney South West Area Health Service, Sydney (Dr Silove).

JAMA. 2006;296(5):576-578. doi:10.1001/jama.296.5.576

The rapid needs assessments undertaken among adults and children 8 weeks after the December 2004 tsunami in Thailand and the results of these assessments reported in this issue of JAMA by van Griensven and colleagues1 and by Thienkrua and colleagues2 mark an impressive advance in the field of psychiatric epidemiology. Strengths of these investigations include the timeliness of the studies, the prominent role played by Thai researchers, the application of rigorous sampling methods, and the inclusion of international and culture-specific indices of distress. In addition, 9-month follow-up data are provided, a rare achievement in disaster research undertaken in the developing world. These studies demonstrate both the feasibility and value of undertaking rapid needs assessments to guide mental health planning after disasters.