Introduction: While mental health consequences following the Asian December 2004 tsunami have been studied, its impact on the survivors who lost close family members deserves attention. We investigated the usefulness of trained volunteer-delivered mental health support for the bereaved persons.
Method: Non-randomized control design involving all adults aged 18 years or above who lost at least one close family member during tsunami from two geographically different coastal areas in Chennai, India. From the intervention and control sites, 45 and 57 participants were recruited respectively for the study. One year after baseline assessment, all 102 participants in intervention and control sites were interviewed.
Results: Participants receiving interventions on a consistent basis from trained volunteers were less likely to report depressive symptoms and general psychological distress compared with participants who did not receive the above intervention. Regression analysis for predicting the effect of intervention on the difference between the baseline and follow-up in BDI as well as GHQ scores, found a significant association between intervention and the improvement in BDI (adjusted beta (SE): -0.53 (2.44); p = 0.000) and GHQ (adjusted beta (SE): -0.52 (1.81); p = 0.001) scores. Suicidal attempts were also significantly less in the intervention group (FET p = 0.02).
Conclusion: In settings where mental health professionals are limited in number, trained lay volunteers can offer empathetic listening, support and referrals that can be potentially beneficial.