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Disaster Mental Health in the Philippines

 
Providing support for relief workers in the aftermath of a devastating typhoon.
 

In November 2013 one of the most powerful tropical storms on record struck the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, killed more than 6,000 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and affected more than 14 million Filipinos, including nearly six million children.

 

During the immediate aftermath of this disaster, Dr. Lynn Waelde collaborated with colleagues at Ateneo de Manila University, the Psychological Association of the Philippines, and University of the Philippines-Visayas to integrate mindfulness and meditation training into Philippine-adapted Psychological First Aid (PFA). The goal of the training is to help disaster relief workers manage their own stress while assisting others. By late December 2013, the PFA training was being used with about 130 disaster responders in Samar and Leyte provinces who used it for their own self-care and to train others.

 

Dr. Waelde was asked to prepare audio-recordings of guided meditations for responders to be included in ongoing PFA workshops. She also worked with Filipino psychologists, counselors, and disaster responders from around the country to edit a PFA manual entitled Katatagan: A Resilience Program for Filipino Survivors. The manual was tailored to the Filipino culture and the needs and capacities of disaster responders. Its six modules can be used in sequence or for stand-alone workshops. The manual has been used throughout the country with thousands of survivors.

 

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Training for Filipino disaster relief workers included exercises to help them manage their own stress while caring for others.