A video of the keynote presentation by Alexander C. McFarlane during the third plenary of the 2016 People in Disasters Conference. McFarlane is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and the Heady of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies. The presentation is titled, "Holding onto the Lessons Disasters Teach".
The abstract for this presentation reads as follows:
Disasters are sentinel points in the life of the communities affected. They bring an unusual focus to community mental health. In so doing, they provide unique opportunities for better understanding and caring for communities. However, one of the difficulties in the disaster field is that many of the lessons from previous disasters are frequently lost. If anything, Norris (in 2006) identified that the quality of disaster research had declined over the previous 25 years. What is critical is that a longitudinal perspective is taken of representative cohorts. Equally, the impact of a disaster should always be judged against the background mental health of the communities affected, including emergency service personnel. Understandably, many of those who are particularly distressed in the aftermath of a disaster are people who have previously experienced a psychiatric disorder. It is important that disaster services are framed against knowledge of this background morbidity and have a broad range of expertise to deal with the emerging symptoms. Equally, it is critical that a long-term perspective is considered rather than short-term support that attempts to ameliorate distress. Future improvement of disaster management depends upon sustaining a body of expertise dealing with the consequences of other forms of traumatic stress such as accidents. This expertise can be redirected to co-ordinate and manage the impact of larger scale events when disasters strike communities. This presentation will highlight the relevance of these issues to the disaster planning in a country such as New Zealand that is prone to earthquakes.