Clinical Implications of Cultural Differences in Factors Influencing Resilience Following Natural Disaster: A Narrative Review

March 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 1)

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Purpose: In the immediate aftermath of disasters, unaffected individuals and organisations attempt to help in whatever capacity may be available to them - including the provision of mental health interventions. It is therefore important to identify the mental health outcomes of such disaster in order for such help to target culturally appropriate interventions for these populations. Objective: The objectives of this literature review were to identify and describe the mental health outcomes, interventions, and resilience or coping skills of survivors following natural disasters - namely earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and floods - across different cultural settings. Methods: Due to the small number of studies identified, a narrative approach was employed to compile the data. Results: Twelve studies were identified for this review and PTSD was the most common mental health outcome identified. Even though there were some differences in resilience and coping strategies of natural disaster survivors, on a micro-environmental level, social support appeared to be common. On a macro-systemic level, community factors, such as community services, cultural factors, spirituality and religion contributed to resilience across several cultures. However, mental health interventions adopted varied across different cultures. Conclusion: Mental health professionals can increase the extent to which they are viewed by victims as a viable source of assistance following a disaster by being aware of the impacts of culture and social class on mental health outcomes. Furthermore, targeting diversity among group members in the planning of disaster mental health services can likewise increase the trust with which diverse ethnic groups view mental health professionals. In essence, mental health professionals have to be innovative and think outside the box to meet the needs of disaster victims.