In disaster situations and complex emergencies there is a deterioration of social fabric, a loss of structure in normal life, and an increase of signs of psychological distress, such as grief and fear, which may increase psychiatric morbidity and other social problems. After an emergency or disaster, mental health problems in survivors require care for an extended amount of time in which they have to face the task of rebuilding their lives.

This publication is a practical guide that facilitates health workers who work in emergency or disaster situations. It describes the major psychological reactions and mental confusion that can afflict disaster victims as well as guidelines for individual care and referrals who require specialized assistance. It also incorporates the most important characteristics of psychological problems in children and guidelines for handling individual and group counseling. This publication deals with the situation of displaced persons and survivors of armed conflicts and emphasizes the elements of humanitarian aid as a fundamental pillar of the plans for psychological support.

The book is directed to people who work in teams who provide answers in disaster and emergency situations, especially to primary health care workers and humanitarian aid actors. It may also be useful to institutions in the health and civil society sectors that provide psychosocial support to communities affected by traumatic events. We hope that this book is a practical tool for the performance and basic material in training processes.


This book can be ordered from PAHO's Emergency Preparedness Area (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), or can be downloaded as PDF file. You need to have installed Adobe Acrobat Reader to read these files. It can be obtained free of charge from the Adobe Website.

pdf Download the document in spanish here. (2.1 MB)