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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 237-248

Emergencies and disasters as opportunities to improve mental health systems: Peruvian experience in Huancavelica

1 Psychologist and field coordinator of the programme, has worked as a clinical psychologist at Pereyra Rossell Children's Hospital in Montevideo (Uruguay) and has been a project coordinator for the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, and for the Public Health Ministry of Uruguay
2 psychiatrist and the technical advisor of the programme. Working at hospital La Paz (Madrid), he has done extensive consultancy work with human right organisations and NGOs in the context of war or political violence and linked to emergencies
3 specialist in public health, and an expertin Health Promotion and Community Health. She is a technical expert on information systems
4 national coordinator for MdM programmes in Peru
5 technical officer in MdM-Asturias, Spain., Spain
6 psychologist, has coordinated the immediate response programme after the earthquake, and provided adviceinpost earthquake programmes, she has also worked at the Peruvian TRC and currently is professor of the Master Programme of Communitarian Psychology at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru
7 head of the Latin American projects in MDM
8 director of Programmes of MdM in Madrid

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The paper describes the development of a community oriented mental health care system in the Region of Huancavelica (Peru), after a devastating earthquake in 2007. The area is also one of the most inaccessible and disadvantaged areas of Peru. Collaborative efforts by health personnel in the area, the Regional Directorate of Health and the international organization Médicos del Mundo – España, led to a wide range of activities such as: 1) the revitalisation of a dysfunctional Community Mental Health Centre; 2) the development of a Regional Mental Health Plan, through an participatory process; 3) a pilot action research project in the community to identify people with severe mental health disorders who did not receive psychiatric care; 4) the training of general health personnel in mental health and 5) support a mental health reparations programme for survivors of political violence. The authors argue that emergencies and disasters can be an opportunity for fundamental changes in the mental health care that would be very difficult to implement at other times. The first six months of reconstruction after a disaster represent a privileged time for nongovernmental organisations to assess the local mental health care systems, and work hand in hand with survivors and the authorities to elaborate longer term projects and mobilise the necessary support.

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