Patterns and Predictors of Primary Mental Health Service Use Following Bushfire and Flood Disasters

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2015 Jun;9(3):275-82. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2015.23. Epub 2015 Apr 14.


Objective: To examine patterns and predictors of primary mental health care service use following 2 major Australian natural disaster events.

Methods: Utilizing data from a national minimum dataset, descriptive and regression analyses were conducted to identify levels and predictors of the use of the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program over a 2-year period following 2 major Australian bushfire and flood/cyclone disasters.

Results: The bushfire disaster resulted in significantly greater and more enduring ATAPS service volume, while service delivery for both disasters peaked in the third quarter. Consumers affected by bushfires (IRR 1.51, 95% CI 1.20-1.89), diagnosed with depression (IRR 2.57, 95% CI 1.60-4.14), anxiety (IRR 2.06, 95% CI 1.21-3.49), or both disorders (IRR 2.15, 95% CI 1.35-3.42) utilized treatment at higher rates.

Conclusions: The substantial demand for primary mental health care services following major natural disasters can vary in magnitude and trajectory with disaster type. Disaster-specific ATAPS services provide a promising model to cater for this demand in primary care settings. Disaster type and need-based variables as drivers of ATAPS use intensity indicate an equitable level of service use in line with the program intention. Established service usage patterns can assist with estimating capacity requirements in similar disaster circumstances.

Keywords: disasters; fires; floods; mental health services; primary health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Fires*
  • Floods*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*