SC on Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Psychology

Psychosocial responses to the Ebola epidemic

Many organizations are sending volunteers to help with the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Volunteers require good support in order to help.  The virus is highly contagious and has a high mortality rate. Volunteers interacting with affected individuals have to wear protective clothing and avoid all direct skin to skin contact. This is in the context of great heat. While there is good training in ensuring the proper donning and taking off of te protective suits, tiredness and heat reaction may lead to breaches in safety procedures.

Volunteers face dealing with many deaths. Deaths of children are particularly difficult to deal with. Many are unable to relax during off duty time. There are difficulties, at times, sharing their reactions both with colleagues and with family and support systems at home. Thus, there is a need for good psychosocial support to be freely available.

While a number of agencies responded with advice to  employers, NGOs and other responsible agencies, the most useful seem to be the Psychosocial Briefing for Healthcare Workers preparing to deploy to Ebola Centres in West Africa, Prepared by Mark Snelling MBACP (accred.), Counsellor, InterHealth Worldwide (see PDF document on this page)

The IFRC website for the psychosocial reference centre contains helpful suggestions: