Can a ‘second disaster’ during and after the COVID-19 pandemic be mitigated?

In most disasters that have been studied, the underlying dangerous cause does not persist for very long. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic a progressively emerging life threat remains, exposing everyone to varying levels of risk of contracting the illness, dying, or infecting others. Distancing and avoiding company have a great impact on social life.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has an enormous economic impact for many losing work and income, which is even affecting basic needs such as access to food and housing. In addition, loss of loved ones may compound the effects of fear and loss of resources. The aim of this paper is to distil, from a range of published literature, lessons from past disasters to assist in mitigating adverse psychosocial reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. European,
American, and Asian studies of disasters show that long-term social and psychological consequences of disasters may compromise initial solidarity. 

Psychosocial disruptions, practical and financial problems, and complex community and political issues may then result in a ‘second disaster’. Lessons from past disasters suggest that communities and their leaders, as well as mental healthcare providers, need to pay attention to fear regarding the ongoing threat, as well as sadness and grief, and to provide hope to mitigate social disruption.


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Berthold P. R. Gersons , Geert E. Smid , Annika S. Smit , Evaldas Kazlauskas & Alexander McFarlane | 2020
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology ; ISSN: 2000-8066 | 11 | 1 | 1815283
COVID-19 (en), Disasters, Emotional States, Natural Disasters, Psychosocial support, Seeking Safety