Mental health problems among search and rescue workers deployed in the Haïti earthquake 2010: a pre-post comparison

Psychiatry Res. 2012 Jun 30;198(1):100-5. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.02.017. Epub 2012 Apr 1.


Search and rescue workers play an important role in rescuing trapped disaster victims. However, it is unclear whether they are at risk for post-disaster mental health problems. For this purpose we prospectively examined pre- and post-deployment health among Dutch search and rescue workers (USAR NL) deployed in the devastating Haiti earthquake disaster (2010). The evening before departure (T1, response=100%) and 3 months post-deployment (T2, response=91%), Search and rescue workers were administered standardized questionnaires assessing health (SCL-90-R, RAND-36), including use of substances and mental health services utilization (N=51). At T2 event-related PTSD-symptoms (IES) and coping self-efficacy (CSE), and experiences during and after deployment were examined. At both surveys health problems were almost absent and no significant increases in health problems and use of substances were found. PTSD-symptomatology was very low and coping self-efficacy rather high. Protective factors such as good team functioning, recognition and job satisfaction were clearly present, while risk factors such as sustained injuries or death of a co-worker were absent. Findings suggest that post-disaster health problems may (partly) be prevented by enhancing or restoring protective factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Earthquakes*
  • Emergency Responders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Haiti / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Rescue Work*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires