Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Disasters especially tough on people with disabilities, mental disorders

Disaster response teams should adjust for needs of victims in each disaster

As hurricane season gets into full swing, mental health teams will be ready to respond and help survivors cope with possible devastation. Psychologists have analyzed decades of research and found that disaster response strategies should address the needs of the population affected, specifically those with disabilities and mental disorders.

Research conducted in the aftermaths of the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina also showed that the type of disaster can have a distinct effect on how people respond psychologically. These and other findings are reported in a special section of Rehabilitation Psychology devoted to disaster management and people with disabilities. The journal is published by the American Psychological Association.

"Katrina taught us a harsh lesson about the plight of vulnerable people in times of disaster and national emergency," said the journal's editor, Timothy Elliott, PhD, of Texas A&M University. "Solutions to these problems won't be provided by any single profession or service, which is why this special section brings together colleagues from psychology, special education and rehabilitation administration to provide information that will help us find solutions."

In a study looking at Hurricane Katrina victims, researchers focused on survivors with a wide range of disabilities. Nearly two years after the storm, they surveyed and interviewed disaster case managers and supervisors who provided services to 2,047 individuals with disabilities and their families through the Katrina Aid Today project. They found that considerable barriers to housing, transportation and disaster services were still present two years after the storm. For example, they found that survivors with disabilities were less likely to own homes than survivors without disabilities. This meant that some of the Federal Emergency Management Agency homeowner programs did not help them or, in the case of FEMA trailers, were not accessible to them.

People with disabilities were also less likely to be employed, which affected their ability to pay utility bills or purchase furniture when they did transition to more permanent housing. Individuals with disabilities were more likely to have medical needs, which affected their ability to travel to service agencies or get jobs. Case management with the survivors with disabilities was seen as taking longer because these people needed assistance in multiple areas.

"Case managers who are knowledgeable about the needs of people with disabilities are essential when navigating an already difficult service system following a disaster of this magnitude," said the study's lead author, Laura Stough, PhD, from Texas A&M University.

Another analysis focused on two different studies – one examining the bombing's survivors and the other Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The Oklahoma City study assessed 182 survivors six months after the bombing. The Hurricane Katrina study sampled 421 people who had been evaluated in a mental health clinic at a Dallas shelter for Katrina evacuees.

Of the Oklahoma City bombing survivors, the most common psychiatric diagnosis was post-traumatic stress disorder, with 34 percent of participants suffering from the problem. The second most common psychiatric diagnosis was major depression, according to the article. Most of the participants, 87 percent, were injured in the bombing; 20 percent of those had to be hospitalized.

The research analysis noted that Hurricane Katrina affected a wider swath of an already disadvantaged population. The main tasks in the psychiatry clinic at the shelter were rapid diagnostic assessment, resumption of psychotropic medications, and linkage to ongoing psychiatric care for already existing disorders.

"Interventions to address unmet treatment needs for an abundance of pre-existing and persistent psychiatric illness would not have been the primary response needed for Oklahoma City survivors," said the study's lead author, Carol North, MD, from the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "This article represents just one example of why disaster intervention plans need to target expected mental health problems emerging in different populations, settings and time frames."

Another study looked at the prevalence of injury and illness following Hurricane Ike in the Galveston, Texas, area. About 4 percent of the population had experienced injuries, and 16 percent of households had someone suffering from an illness two to six months following the disaster, according to a survey of 658 adults. The risk for injury or illness increased in areas where there was more damage. Some other stressors that occurred at the same time as these injuries or illnesses were post-traumatic stress, dysfunction and physical disability.

"The associations of injury with distress and disability suggest that community programs should reach out to injured people for early mental health and functional assessments," said study author Fran Norris, PhD, director of the National Center for Disaster Mental Health Research at the Dartmouth Medical School. "Follow-up support services that address mental health and functional problems could be part of the treatment plan for those people treated for disaster-related injuries or illnesses."

Contact Dr. Timothy Elliott by e-mail at; or by phone at 979-422-1420.

Contact Dr. Laura Stough by e-mail at; or by phone at 512-497-8738 and at 979-845-8257.

Contact Dr. Carol North by e-mail at; or by phone at 214-648-5375.

Contact Dr. Fran Norris by e-mail at; or by phone at 802-296-5132.

Special Section – "Disaster Management and Persons With Disabilities," Rehabilitation Psychology, Vol. 55, No. 3.

Full texts of the articles available from the APA Public Affairs Office and here:

Disaster Case Management and Individuals with Disabilities -

A Tale of Two Studies of Two Disasters: Comparing Psychosocial Responses to Disaster Among Oklahoma City Bombing Survivors and Hurricane Katrina Evacuees -

Prevalence and Consequences of Disaster-Related Illness and Injury from Hurricane Ike -

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 152,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

Audrey Hamilton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Scientists develop tiny tooth-mounted sensors that can track what you eat
22.03.2018 | Tufts University

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>