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Understanding the resilience and mental health impacts of natural disasters in India: A narrative review

Sangram Kishor Patel, Gopal Agrawal, Bincy Mathew

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to understand the linkages between natural disasters and their impact on the mental health of people as well as associated resilience mechanisms in India. Natural disasters affect not only the physical environment but also the economy, social life, and well-being of the population. In addition to the loss of precious lives and economic losses, disasters affect the natural growth and mental health of the affected populations to a great extent. It is extremely challenging to quantify the true scale of damage caused by a disaster because physical damage is visible, but hidden impacts could be much more severe and have catastrophic effects on the socioeconomic growth of the affected families and areas. Against this background and with the limited available evidence, this study has tried to understand how disasters lead to poor mental health among the affected populations around the globe and tried to conceptualize this in the Indian context. Our review documents the different pathways for disasters to adversely affect mental health, particularly among vulnerable populations. The review also highlights how an increased frequency of disasters with climate change can lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, and depression. Changes in climate and global warming may require populations to migrate, which can lead to acculturation stress. It can also lead to increased rates of physical illnesses, which secondarily would be associated with psychological distress. This research is an initial step in bringing this important issue forward in the context of Sustainable Development Goals and outlining that better policies need to be designed for prevention, services, and psychological counseling of mental health problems due to disasters. This study also suggests for more longitudinal research to understand the development of disaster-related mental health problems and to develop adequate mitigation strategies.

Keywords

Climate change; Natural disasters; Resilience; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Psychological distress; Mental health; India

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18063/ijps.v6i1.1183
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