March 3, 2005

American Psychological Association Announces Plans for Next Phase of Tsunami Relief Efforts

Second stage will focus on mental health needs of survivors

WASHINGTON - The American Psychological Association (APA) is continuing its efforts to assist the survivors of last December's tsunami in Southeast Asia. With the help of psychologist Gerard (Jerry) Jacobs, Ph.D., of the University of South Dakota - one of the world's authorities on the mental health needs of disaster survivors - APA has formulated phase II of its tsunami response. This phase focuses on helping the affected countries build and/or strengthen their own mental health and disaster relief infrastructure.

Specific actions APA will take for the intermediate response period (three to nine months into the recovery) include the following:

  • Collaborate in the psychological support training being offered by the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) and provide follow-up support to individual country psychological associations that have participated in the IUPsyS training.
  • Provide one or two providers from each of the affected countries the opportunity to obtain more in-depth training in disaster psychology.
  • Continue with development of a cadre of international consultants to respond to questions from providers and the media regarding the Asian tsunami.
  • Provide a venue at the APA 2005 convention in Washington, DC for a discussion of tsunami relief projects.

The APA Board of Directors has approved up to $150,000 for these and other recovery assistance projects including long-term recovery assistance steps, such as the encouragement of education about trauma and disasters in doctoral clinical and counseling training programs and master's level school psychologist programs.

"Our initial response to the Tsunami was how can we get help to people in the affected countries quickly and what is most needed? At that point, a donation to the American Red Cross relief fund made the most sense," said APA President Ronald F. Levant, Ed.D. "Now, with phase II of our response, we want to focus on what psychology can uniquely bring to the table to help the tsunami victims. One thing that psychologists can uniquely do is bring our experience in dealing with trauma and natural disasters to our mental health colleagues in the affected countries. The goal is to help them strengthen their own countries mental health systems and infrastructures," said Dr. Levant.

These steps are in addition to the initial steps taken by the association following the tsunami, which included a $100,000 contribution to the American Red Cross Tsunami Relief Fund and asking the American Red Cross to work with the APA Disaster Response Network to serve the needs of family members of those directly affected by the tsunami who currently reside in the United States.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.