Post Tsunami Mental Health Outreach Program

Association for Disaster and Mass Trauma Studies
139 Cedar Street
Cliffside Park, NJ 07010
Contact: Dr. Anie Kalayjian
Tel: 201-941-2266
Fax: 201-941-2266
E-mail: [email protected]

New York, NY: The terrible earthquake and tsunami on December 2004
that struck 11 countries, from Indonesia to Somalia has had a
tremendous impact on the world. After seeing the devastation left by
the tsunami on the news, Dr. Kalayjian sent an application to mental
health practitioners to volunteer both time and money. Based on her 15
year experience in post disaster mental health outreach, Dr. Kalayjian
realized that psychological aide needed to start immediately after the
physical needs were met. This thought was supported by Ambassador
Bernard Goonatilleke, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the
United Nations. The Association for Disaster and Mass Trauma Studies &
the Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress and Genocide
spearheaded by Dr. Anie Kalayjian organized a Mental Health Outreach
Program (MHOP) to Sri Lanka.

MHOP was implemented successfully post 1988 earthquake in Armenia and
the 1999 earthquake in Turkey. MHOP expands on the nursing process
from its five phases into eight phases. The eight phases of the MHOP
include: Preassessment, Assessment, Analysis, Community diagnosis,
Planning, Implementation, Evaluation, and Remodification (Kalayjian,

The program is designed to address the needs of all those whose lives
have been directly or indirectly impacted by the Tsunami, and places
emphasis on discussing traumatic memories and experiences, and finding
positive meaning in their lives. Special consideration will be given
to the impact of religion on coping, culture specific forms of
communication, willingness to share feelings with strangers, impact of
political upheaval as well as varied views on causality.

Teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals and parents will be trained in
the Six-Step Bio-Psychosocial and Spiritual Model. Dr. Kalayjian’s
Six-Step Bio-Psychosocial and Spiritual – Model is comprised of the
following six steps:

1.. Assess levels of distress
2.. Encourage discovery of memories & expression of feelings
3.. Provide empathy and validation
4.. Encourage discovery and expression of positive meaning
5.. Provide didactic information
6.. Provide instructions for diaphragmatic breathing and physical
relief (Safety Science, 2001, 39 pp. 71-81).

MHOP is collaborating with UNITED SIKHS, a worldwide humanitarian
organization. UNITED SIKHS is securing shelter for the volunteers.
Additionally, MHOP is collaborating with Columbia University’s School
of Public Health, Center for Disaster Preparedness. The MHOP team will
be going to Sri Lanka, Colombo first and then to the fields and the
refugee camps. Each team will have 3-5 people. The first team will be
leaving on February 9th and the second team will meet them around
February 20th to receive an orientation and a progress report.
Subsequent teams will follow this same structure. Each team will work
in the field for three weeks.

A research component will be integrated in this outreach. Levels of
PTSD, resiliency and physiological symptoms will be explored.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress