What is Disaster Mental Health?


isaster mental health refers to mental health services for victims, first responders, and medical personnel who experience disaster. Disaster can include a wide variety of sudden, catastrophic events that cause loss of life, such as an earthquake, a terrorist attack, or even a global pandemic.

What Conditions Are Associated With Disaster Mental Health?

Traumatic experiences during disaster can produce a variety of mental health conditions that last long after danger ends. Some of these may be related to neurological changes produced by long periods of “fight or flight.”

One of the most prominent conditions associated with disaster mental health is PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.) Once thought common only in military conflict, it is now understood PTSD can come from any intense experience of danger that provokes feelings of helplessness.

Clinical Trials on the Disaster Mental Health

PTSD can have symptoms including flashbacks, memory loss (especially in relation to the traumatic event), anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and angry outbursts. The vast majority of PTSD sufferers are nonviolent and pose no threat to others.

Anxiety and depression are typical complications from any disaster. Both adults and children may feel guilty, believing they “should have done more.” Emotional flashbacks in which the sufferer re-experiences negative emotions without “seeing” or “hearing” the event, are common.

Disaster Mental Health Recovery and Lifestyle Changes

Disaster mental health treatment often includes a combination of medication and therapy. Medication focuses on reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Therapy can be in a group or one-on-one setting. Its primary goal is to help a sufferer process trauma.

One of the biggest challenges in disaster mental health care is the difficulty sufferers face verbalizing their experiences. Processing the emotions that come from trauma help reduce their effect on a person’s life. Novel approaches such as art therapy help many individuals express trauma in a way that helps. Techniques like journaling may also be used.

Disaster mental health patients need to identify psychological triggers in their environment. These triggers can cause them to re-experience the emotions or sensations of a past trauma. At first, recognizing and avoiding such triggers is advisable. With professional help, it’s possible to overcome the negative associations of triggers in a controlled environment.

Disaster Mental Health Research

Disaster Mental Health Research

Disaster mental health has been a prominent concern in psychology for decades. As researchers have uncovered effects of trauma on the brain, it has become clear profound neurological changes can occur during disaster even if one is not physically harmed.

Disaster mental health research focuses on two main areas: Reduction and treatment. Reduction aims to equip at-risk populations, like police and EMTs, with coping strategies to manage trauma. Treatment focuses on the neurobiology of trauma, creating better clinical resources for disaster mental health.

Why is Further Disaster Mental Health Research Necessary?

Millions of people all around the world are affected by mental health issues arising from disaster. The lessons of disaster mental health apply to everything from the COVID-19 outbreak to individual experiences of sexual assault or other criminal violence. With that in mind, all disaster mental health research has potential to help a broad spectrum of the population.

Disaster Mental Health Clinical Trials

This list contains all disaster mental health clinical trials on record at ClinicalTrials.gov. To feature a clinical trial on our site, contact us.

  • ABC - A Post Intensive Care Anaemia Management Trial
    on October 19, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Anemia Acute;   Fatigue;   Physical Disability;   Quality of LifeIntervention:   Biological: Red Blood Cells (Transfusion)Sponsors:   University of Edinburgh;   University of OxfordRecruiting

  • Efficacy of AAC for Functional Communication
    on October 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Learning Disabilities;   Cerebral Palsy;   Down SyndromeInterventions:   Other: Rhymes;   Other: Individual Items in Rhymes;   Other: ObjectsSponsor:   Riphah International UniversityRecruiting

  • Brain-Computer Interface Implant for Severe Communication Disability
    on October 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Locked-in SyndromeIntervention:   Device: Summit SystemSponsors:   Johns Hopkins University;   UMC Utrecht;   National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)Recruiting

  • Scaling-up Psychological Interventions With Syrian Refugees in Switzerland (STRENGTHS_CH): RCT
    on October 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Distress;   PTSD;   Anxiety;   Depression;   Trauma;   Functional Disabilities;   Common Mental Health ProblemsIntervention:   Behavioral: Problem Management PlusSponsor:   University of ZurichRecruiting

  • MAVIPAN: My Life and the COVID-19 Pandemic
    on October 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Psychosocial Impacts of the COVID-19 PandemicIntervention:   Other: No intervention, this is an observational study that uses validated questionnaires and qualitative interviews..Sponsors:   Laval University;   VITAM: Research Center on Sustainable Health;   Centre de recherche CERVO;   Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en réadaptation et intégration sociale;   Centre de recherche universitaire sur les jeunes et les familles;   Réseau québécois de recherche sur le vieillissement;   Participation sociale et villes inclusives;   Société inclusive;   CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches;   Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Côte-Nord;   Fondation Mirella et Lino Saputo;   Ville de Québec;   Living Lab de Charlevoix;   Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux du Bas St-Laurent;   Réseau provincial de recherche en adaptation réadaptation;   Réseau international sur le Processus de production du handicap;   Centre de recherche intégrée pour un système apprenant en santé et services sociaux;   Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées de la région 03Recruiting

  • Testing a Novel Parenting Intervention for Children With Autism
    on October 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Autism Spectrum DisorderInterventions:   Behavioral: Elaborative Reminiscence (ER);   Behavioral: Present Tense Talk (PTT)Sponsor:   City, University of LondonRecruiting

  • Evaluation of mediVR-KAGURA Guided Therapy
    on September 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Physical Disability;   Cognitive DysfunctionIntervention:   Device: mediVR KAGURASponsor:   Japan Society of Clinical ResearchRecruiting

  • Clinical Research of UC-MSCs in the Treatment of Diabetic Nephropathy
    on September 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Diabetic NephropathyInterventions:   Drug: UC-MSCs;   Drug: PlaceboSponsors:   Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University;   Wuhan Hamilton Biotechnology Co., LtdRecruiting

  • Internet CBT for Trichotillomania and Skin Picking Disorder
    on September 23, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Trichotillomania;   Excoriation (Skin-Picking) DisorderIntervention:   Behavioral: Cognitive behavioral therapySponsors:   Karolinska Institutet;   Region StockholmRecruiting

  • COVID-Impact "Psychological IMPACT of Covid-19 on AP-HP Staff"
    on September 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);   Anxiety;   Depression;   Epidemic Disease;   COVID19Intervention:   Other: QuestionnaireSponsor:   Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de ParisRecruiting

  • MIND/COVID-19: Mental Health Impact and NeeDs Associated With COVID-19: a Comprehensive National Evaluation in Spain
    on September 21, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Covid19;   Mental Health Disorder;   Mental Health ConditionsIntervention:   Sponsors:   Jordi Alonso;   Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre;   Instituto de Salud Carlos III;   Universitat Pompeu Fabra;   Public Health Agency of Barcelona;   Jordi Gol i Gurina Foundation;   Sistema de Emergencias Médicas de Cataluña (SEM);   Agència de Qualitat i Avaluació Sanitàries;   Gerencia de Atención Primaria de Madrid-FIIBAP;   Hospital del Mar;   Fundació Institut de Recerca de l'Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau;   Fundacion Clinic per a la Recerca Biomédica;   Hospital Vall d'Hebron;   Hospital Clínico Universitario de Valencia;   Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañon;   Hospital Universitario Principe de Asturias;   Hospital El Bierzo;   Hospital Universitario Araba;   Hospital Universitario Donostia;   Hospital de Cruces;   Hospital Universitario Torrecárdenas;   Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de DéuRecruiting

  • Radial Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy Versus Platelet-rich Plasma Injection for Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome
    on September 3, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Gluteal Tendinopathy;   Greater Trochanteric Pain SyndromeInterventions:   Procedure: rESWT;   Procedure: PRP injectionSponsor:   Istanbul Physical Medicine Rehabilitation Training and Research HospitalRecruiting


With more people experiencing disaster, stigma around seeking disaster mental health treatment is beginning to fade. Disaster mental health clinical resources will depend on active clinical trials that uncover further information about the brain’s trauma response. Further medical research may help millions of people reclaim their sense of stability.