Friday, August 10, 2012

Tsunami Clean-Up Workers Need Mental Health Care

The restricted area around Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant still lacks a full-time psychiatrist to provide mental health care for plant employees, according to a report in the August American Journal of Psychiatry. The plant was damaged, and thousands of people were killed by an immense earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

In May 2011, Jun Shigemura, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Defense Medical College in Saitama, Japan, was the first psychiatrist permitted to enter the affected zone. Plant workers were experiencing grief and guilt following the deaths of their coworkers and loved ones. Neighbors often blamed the workers for the disaster. “The workers showed a myriad of posttraumatic stress responses, including intrusive flashbacks, avoidance of their plant, hypervigilance toward aftershocks, fear of irradiation, and dissociative episodes,” wrote Shigemura and colleagues. The cleanup will take decades, and the long-term presence of mental health professionals is essential to help those burdened with “grief, high radiation exposure, and life-threatening experiences.

To read the report by Shigemura, click here. For more about the tsunami’s mental health aftermath, see Psychiatric News here.
(Image: Yankane/


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