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Disaster Psychiatry

Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment

Frederick J. Stoddard, Jr., M.D., Anand Pandya, M.D., and Craig L. Katz, M.D.
Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry

  • ISBN 978-0-87318-217-1
  • Item #7217
This book was Highly Commended in the Psychiatry category of the 2012 BMA Medical Book Awards.

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It is becoming increasingly common for psychiatrists to be among the first responders when disaster strikes. More than 800 psychiatrists are believed to have responded to the 9/11 attacks. The first clinical manual on the best practices for helping those affected by disaster, Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment offers an explicit and practical discussion of the evidence base for recommendations for psychiatric evaluation and interventions for disaster survivors.

Disaster is defined by the World Health Organization as a severe disruption, ecological and psychosocial, that greatly exceeds a community's capacity to cope. This manual takes an all-hazards approach to disasters and has application to natural occurrences such as earthquakes and hurricanes; accidental technological events such as airplane crashes; and willful human acts such as terrorism.

The field of disaster psychiatry is more important than ever, in response to disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Today, disaster psychiatry encompasses a wide spectrum of clinical interests, ranging from public health preparations and early psychological interventions to psychiatric consultation to surgical units and psychotherapeutic interventions to alleviate stress in children and families after school shootings, hurricanes, or civil conflict. Although disaster mental health is still a young field, research is gradually yielding methods for accurately identifying valid relationships among preexisting risk factors, postdisaster mental health problems, and effective interventions.

With its practical approach to readiness, response, and intervention and its focus on evidence-based recommendations for psychiatric evaluation and interventions, Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment is an invaluable manual for educator and student alike. The manual draws on a variety of sources, including the peer-reviewed scientific literature, the clinical wisdom imparted by front-line psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, and the experiences of those who have organized disaster mental health services, including the American Psychiatric Association and Disaster Psychiatry Outreach. Each chapter provides clear and concise information and in-depth review, followed by helpful study questions and answers. This book has been developed to give professionals the knowledge they need to respond swiftly and appropriately when disaster strikes.


  • Contributors
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Readiness
  • Chapter 1. Preparation and Systems Issues: Integrating Into a Disaster Response
  • Chapter 2. Communicating Risk Before, During, and After a Disaster
  • Chapter 3. Rescuing Ourselves: Self-Care in the Disaster Response Community
  • Chapter 4. Needs Assessment
  • Part II: Evaluation
  • Chapter 5. Psychiatric Evaluation
  • Chapter 6. Special Populations
  • Chapter 7. Serious Mental Illness
  • Chapter 8. Substance Abuse
  • Chapter 9. Personality Issues
  • Chapter 10. Injuries and Triage of Medical Complaints
  • Chapter 11. Grief and Resilience
  • Part III: Intervention
  • Chapter 12. Psychological First Aid
  • Chapter 13. Group and Family Interventions
  • Chapter 14. Psychotherapies
  • Chapter 15. Psychopharmacology: Acute Phase
  • Chapter 16. Psychopharmacology: Postacute Phase
  • Chapter 17. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Interventions
  • Chapter 18. Geriatric Psychiatry Interventions
  • Part IV: Emerging and Other Topics
  • Chapter 19. Psychiatrists as Ambassadors
  • Chapter 20. Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Chapter 21. Telepsychiatry in Disasters and Public Health Emergencies
  • Appendixes:
  • A Key Readings and Resources
  • B Answers to Review Questions
  • Index


    David R. Beckert, M.D.
    Grant H. Brenner, M.D.
    Frank G. Dowling, M.D.
    Kristina Jones, M.D.
    Edward M. Kantor, M.D.
    Craig L. Katz, M.D.
    Chad M. Lemaire, M.D., R.N., B.S.N.
    Joseph P. Merlino, M.D., M.P.A.
    David J. Mysels, M.D., M.B.A.
    Anthony T. Ng, M.D.
    Anand Pandya, M.D.
    Srinivasan S. Pillay, M.D.
    Kenneth Sakauye, M.D.
    Heather L. Shibley, M.D.
    Frederick J. Stoddard Jr., M.D.
    Maria A. Sullivan, M.D., Ph.D.

About the Authors

Frederick J. Stoddard Jr., M.D., is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Shriners Hospitals for Children, Boston, Massachusetts, and Chair of the Committee on Disasters and Terrorism of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry.

Anand Pandya, M.D., is Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California; Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles; and Vice President of Disaster Psychiatry Outreach in New York, New York.

Craig L. Katz, M.D., is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and President of Disaster Psychiatry Outreach in New York, New York.

Disasters, natural or man-made, have been with us always. Disaster Psychiatry, edited by Stoddard, Pandya, and Katz, is an essential roadmap for all clinicians. With a common voice of authority, the authors of this welcome text teach us what to expect when the next disaster arrives, how to figure out who needs what kind of help, and how to provide it.—John M. Oldham, M.D., Senior VP & Chief of Staff at The Menninger Clinic & Professor & Exec Vice Chairman in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Med

Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment provides a thorough overview of the topic of Disaster Psychiatry as well as a practical guide for managing the myriad of clinical presentations encountered by psychiatrists and other mental health workers dealing with acute and protracted reactions to overwhelming mass trauma. The recommendations are evidenced-based and backed by extensive references. The text is peppered with clinical vignettes that bring the crises to life, and each chapter includes review questions that ensure the key points are driven home. With a scope extending from systems issues, hierarchy and overlap of involved agencies, to management of the individual patient, Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment is a comprehensive clinical manual, educating the psychiatrist already experienced in rendering disaster care as well as the interested clinician with as yet little direct experience in crisis treatment.—James E. Nininger M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, New York-Presbyterian Hospital

This is an extremely comprehensive - yet easy to read and clinically oriented - manual covering all the aspects of the psychiatric approach to disasters. Special features are the case scenarios from past disasters followed by discussion, and the emphasis on public health preparation and resilience factors.—Mario Maj, Professor of Psychiatry and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, University of Naples SUN, Naples, Italy

Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment is a welcome reference for psychiatrists who volunteer their time and expertise to help populations affected by exposure to catastrophic events. The authors of this unique training manual are experts who have experienced first hand or studied the predicament of colleagues faced with the sudden need to complement clinical expertise with a systematic public health approach to the unique challenges posed by disasters. Although the timing of disasters is hard to predict, anticipatory preparation of the type outlined in this volume, particularly in conjunction with specific training sessions, will greatly magnify the effectiveness and value of the skills and knowledge that our psychiatric colleagues bring to organized response efforts when disasters do occur. The American Psychiatric Association Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters supports a disaster resource Web site (at, offers regular disaster training sessions for members at the Annual Meeting, and works with the network of disaster response agencies listed in this manual to coordinate member psychiatrist responses to such events. Drs. Stoddard, Pandya, and Katz have provided an outstanding educational resource for their psychiatric colleagues with enough foresight to plan ahead for responding to future disasters.—Darrel A. Regier, M.D., M.P.H., Research Director, American Psychiatric Association & APIRE, and Vice-Chair, DSM-5 Task Force

This all-inclusive book on disaster psychiatry uses excellent figures, tables, diagrams, teaching point sections, summaries, conclusions, and clinical case vignettes to teach, reinforce, and truly explain the guiding principles of the field. The review questions at the end of each chapter, along with the references, provide an excellent way to test and reinforce knowledge and avenues for further reading. This is a wonderful book on a pertinent and fascinating subject appropriate for almost any mental healthcare professional practicing or interested in disaster psychiatry.—Steve Paschos, M.D., Doody Enterprises, 8/19/2011

Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment is a useful resource on disaster psychiatry with practical guidance for clinicians.—Nilamadhab Kar, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 8/19/2011

The editors clearly recognize the broad range of skills and knowledge psychiatrists need to use before, during, and after a disaster. By combining clinical guidance at the individual patient level with guidance on assessment and intervention strategies at the population level, they have made a major contribution to clinical care in disasters with their well organized, easily readable, and clinically focused textbook Individual chapters serve as 'stand-alone' clinical guides to preparedness, assessment, treatment, and population level interventions. Each chapter is followed by excellent key points and review questions that allow readers to review important concepts and evaluate knowledge acquired.—David M. Benedek, M.D.,, Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 3/1/2012

Disaster Psychiatry is kind of a how-to manual for psychiatrists as first responders. And while the skills of the profession can be very important in the event, doctors will usually find that they don't practice them as they would in a traditional setting A fine primer for psychiatrists who want to volunteer their services in a crisis, this book covers all the issues they'll need to address.—Natural Hazards Observer, 11/1/2012

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