Humanity experiences many and varied problems. Among the most significant are those related to natural disasters. As they generate gross damages, they cannot be addressed from a single perspective. It is necessary to carry out comprehensive actions and proposals for a correct rehabilitation, i.e., psychosocial interventions aim at helping each person as a unique being and an individual who is part of a society damaged by trauma.
CADIS is always keen to this approach. It has been developing programs following a holistic perspective, always keeping in mind a psychosocial approach which is complex which requires a great deal of coordination and attentive preparation. This perspective requires diagnosis and analysis of the situation altered by trauma without neglecting the emotional damage and behavioral changes caused by the disaster. CADIS considers of vital importance the personal rehabilitation to prevent disorders related to mental health, as well as the recovery of the social fabric damaged by the disaster.
CADIS approach in any intervention gives importance to the psychosocial dimension. Aware of the necessity to mitigate the effects of disaster to the person and the community, CADIS establishes a “planning aid” which aims to offer professional help to people in situation of vulnerability and extreme risk due to any kind of disaster.
The word approach refers to a way of understanding the different situations and actions of the affected persons using certain psychosocial criteria. This approach is important, at the operational and strategic levels.
CADIS understands the person from a holistic perspective applied in the disaster management strategies. All its intervention considers the person in its integrity and not compartmentalized. It always attends to the physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual personal dimensions. These actions are realized within a communitarian context, considering not only the immediate familial social relations, but also the person’s relation with others as a social being. From this perspective, we consider that there is no better intervention than the psychosocial one.
In any types of disasters, human-made or natural, there is always suffering, damage, pain, destruction, despair and fear. Being aware of these consequences, CADIS plans all actions with the following objectives: to mitigate risks, confronting social problems, to utilize available resources in caring for the mental health of each individual, to provide psychological and social attention. In the process, it keeps in mind both the family as a social group and the community, and it does so from a preventive, curative, formative and therapeutic perspective. With this approach, CADIS achieves the objectives of psychosocial intervention and improve the quality of personal and social life.
This is very significant, because this approach has enabled us to work with trauma in a multidimensional way. By multidimensional, we mean psychosocial interventions that use psychological, behavioral, cognitive, social and systemic techniques, among others.
The psychosocial paradigm seeks to alleviate individual and social suffering. To do so, its starting point is always the analysis of reality. I remember the hours, weeks and months that Fr. Aris Miranda, Fr. Sam Cuarto and Bro. Luca Perletti, dedicated to understand the life, culture and customs in Sierra Leone in planning its psychosocial program for the EBOLA survivors. This was also done in Nepal, the Philippines, India, and all other places where CADIS has operated. The interventions were aimed at helping individuals, families and communities.
CADIS follows this paradigm. It is aware that a person is not isolated but develops in a social environment. For this reason, the interventions have been developed on two basic levels: the person and the community. These are the basis of all psychosocial intervention.
Why is psychosocial intervention necessary after a disaster? CADIS assumes that any type of disaster affects the people and their environment. It has always psychological and social consequences that affect the environment and the social structures. There are psychological damages to individuals and the social fabric.
Dr. Santamaría Repiso, C and Dr. Biju Sebastian K. B. (2019) affirmed:
“Among the psychological damages that affect the person individually the following are the most significant:
- Traumatic stress
- A cluster of mental disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress, fear, loneliness and depression
- Eating disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Suicidal thoughts
That is to say, during the disaster and after it, the personal, economic and social damages are numerous and very diverse.
The most frequent social problems are:
- Family problems as a result of the disaster:
o Family breakup
o Family imbalance due to death of parents, children, close relatives...
o Rupture of family dynamics
o Family roles alteration
o Ability to protect or check out
- Economic problems derived from the disaster:
o Higher poverty rate
o Environmental destruction
o Infrastructures destruction
o Damage to basic services
o Lack of minimal resources
o Organizational lack
Psychosocial support, in this context is aimed at encouraging victims to be able to develop not only individual strategies but to build up a resilient community.” (pp. 10 -11).
Therefore, the main objective of psychosocial program is to restore normal life, facilitate participation of those affected in the personal and social recovery, and prevent serious psychological consequences due to trauma.
CADIS upholds that there is a connection between the psychological and the social processes; both constantly interact - one influences the other and are inseparable. For this reason, we consider that personal and community well-being can only be achieved by taking care of the psychological and social needs of the individuals.
There is a close and direct relationship between the personal and the social spheres. Humans are social beings and their integration and participation in society can be a source of well-being or marginalization. When society is damaged by any circumstance, the individual feels insecurity and abandonment, which may influence his or her physical and mental health (Ellen, Dillman, & Mijanovich, 2001).
Hence, Schwarzer et al (2003) have stated categorically: “Health is determined not only by biological, but also by social network, thus indicating that social factors have a beneficial effect on longevity” (p. 2). Likewise, when there are social problems, physical illness emerges, as Berkman and Symes (1979) affirm.
For this reason, in the context of social disaster we may have to face mental illness, such as depression and neurosis, as well as feelings of unhappiness, sadness, downheartedness and melancholy. And, of course, we can also include social consequences, such as isolation, poverty, weakening of social networks, fewer exchanges of resources and non- reciprocal relationships, among others.
At all times CADIS has made an analysis of both reality and consequences often from a psychosocial perspective, because, as we have said previously, to understand the consequences of the disaster, it is impossible to separate the individual (personal and psychological dimension) from the collective (social dimension).
This perspective makes it possible to talk about psychosocial impacts and enables us to evaluate correctly the damage of the trauma caused by the disaster, both in the person and in the community. We can also deal with individual and social grief because of human and material losses caused by the disaster. Thus, this approach helps us rebuild people and communities.
Ellen, I. G., Dillman, K., & Mijanovich, T. (2001). Neighborhood effects on health:
exploring the links and assessing the evidence. Journal of Urban Affairs, 23,
391–408. (Take from: Santamaría & Sebastian, 2019)
Santamaría Repiso. C & Sebastian, B (2019) Handbook of Community-Based Psycho-Social Support for People Affected by Disasters. Rome. CADIS Publications.
Schwarzer, R., Sniehotta, F.F., Lippke, S., Luszczynska, A., Scholz, U., Schüz, B.,
Wegner, M., & Ziegelmann, J.P. (2003). On the assessment and analysis of variables in the health action process approach: conducting an investigation. Retrieved from http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/gesund/hapa_web.pdf (Take from: Santamaría & Sebastian, 2019)