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.

  • A Clinical Trail of Traditional Chinese Medicine Rehabilitation for Stroke Lead to Dysphagia / Cognitive Disorder
    on May 21, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   StrokeIntervention:   Combination Product: Chinese traditional rehabilitationSponsor:   The Third Affiliated hospital of Zhejiang Chinese Medical UniversityRecruiting

  • Accelerated iTBS for Depressed Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    on May 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Major Depressive DisorderIntervention:   Device: MagPro X100 Stimulator, B70 Fluid-Cooled CoilSponsor:   Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthRecruiting

  • Better Delineation of CDK13 Related Phenotype and Epigenetic Signature.
    on May 11, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Congenital Heart Defects;   Dysmorphic Facial Features and Intellectual Developmental DisorderIntervention:   Genetic: Epigenetic signaturesSponsor:   University Hospital, MontpellierRecruiting

  • Rehabilitation Treatment of Time Deficits in Brain-damaged Patients
    on May 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Brain DamageInterventions:   Behavioral: Prismatic googles inducing prismatic adaptation (PA) associated to Virtual Reality (VR);   Other: Neutral googles inducing no-adaptation (NA) associated to Virtual Reality (VR)Sponsors:   Istituti Clinici Scientifici Maugeri SpA;   University of BolognaRecruiting

  • Long Term Outcomes of Patients With COVID-19
    on April 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Critical Illness;   Corona Virus Infection;   Respiratory Failure;   Covid-19Interventions:   Other: Quality of Life;   Other: Impact Event Score;   Other: Hospital anxiety and depression scaleSponsor:   University of ChicagoRecruiting

  • Rehabilitation Through Hippotherapy for the Management of Women After Primary Treatment of Breast Cancer
    on April 17, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Breast Cancer Female;   Side Effects;   Psychological Distress;   Physical DisabilityInterventions:   Other: Hippotherapy;   Other: Conventional therapySponsors:   Alliance Equiphoria;   Institut Equiphoria - La Canourgue, France;   Montpellier Institut du Sein - Montpellier, France;   Clinique Clementville - Montpellier, France;   Klésia Languedoc Service de l'Action Sociale - France;   Fondation Crédit Agricole Solidarité et Développement - France;   Crédit Agricole du Languedoc - FranceRecruiting

  • Neonatal Seizure Registry - Developmental Functional EValuation
    on April 8, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Neonatal Seizure;   Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy;   Stroke;   Intracranial Hemorrhages;   Epilepsy;   Cerebral Palsy;   Intellectual DisabilityIntervention:   Sponsors:   University of California, San Francisco;   University of Michigan;   Stanford University;   Duke University;   Boston Children’s Hospital;   Children's National Research Institute;   Massachusetts General Hospital;   Children's Hospital of Philadelphia;   Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati;   National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)Recruiting

  • Long-term Safety and Efficacy of GSK3196165 (Otilimab) in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
    on April 3, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Arthritis, RheumatoidInterventions:   Biological: GSK3196165;   Drug: csDMARD(s)Sponsors:   GlaxoSmithKline;   Iqvia Pty LtdRecruiting

  • Adding Two Different Types of Manual Techniques to an Exercise Program for the Management of Chronic Neck Pain
    on March 31, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Neck PainInterventions:   Other: Intervention 1 Exercise;   Other: Intervention 2 Exercise and INIT;   Other: Intervention 3 Exercise and SMT;   Other: ControlSponsor:   Aristotle University Of ThessalonikiRecruiting

  • Post-stroke Recovery (PSR_e2020)
    on March 26, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   StrokeInterventions:   Other: Experimental treatment;   Other: Control groupSponsor:   Universita di VeronaRecruiting

  • Neural Mechanisms of Successful Intervention in Children With Dyslexia
    on March 26, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Dyslexia, DevelopmentalIntervention:   Behavioral: Lindamood-Bell Seeing StarsSponsor:   Stanford UniversityRecruiting

  • Web-based Follow-up to Former ICU Patients
    on March 23, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Post Intensive Care Unit SyndromeInterventions:   Behavioral: Web-based follow-up programme.;   Behavioral: No follow-upSponsor:   Uppsala UniversityRecruiting


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.