The British Journal of Psychiatry
A mental health relief programme in Armenia after the 1988 earthquake. Implementation and clinical observations.
A Goenjian

Abstract

An international mental health relief programme for children and adults was implemented in Soviet Armenia after the 7 December 1988 Spitak earthquake. This paper presents: (a) the steps considered essential in the selection, preparation and support of mental health workers for the relief work; (b) a method which facilitated the screening and treating of large numbers of students in their classrooms; (c) the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (74%) and major depressive disorder (22%) of 582 victims clinically evaluated before entering treatment three to six months after the earthquake; (d) clinical observations of significant psychological problems that may be overlooked in brief crisis-orientated psychotherapy; (e) multiple severe post-earthquake adversities (such as the collapse of the social network, the recurrence of after-shocks, the delay of reconstruction and the ongoing political turmoil) which contributed to the psychological problems of the victims and delayed their recovery; (f) the extension of the outreach programme beyond its traditional therapeutic role to an advisory one to other relief organisations.