To help interveners adequately conduct surveillance of mental health impacts following a major disaster (recovery phase), a project to develop and make available a toolkit was initiated. More specifically, the objectives are to:
- take stock of existing surveillance systems and health data sources in Québec;
- list post-disaster studies conducted in Québec and in France;
- identify available, validated standardized instruments in French that measure mental health impacts by means of surveys and evaluate their quality and utility;
- make such tools available to those responsible for surveillance in the health and social services network (HSSN), with general recommendations concerning their optimum use.
The toolkit is aimed mainly at public health professionals and epidemiologists, researchers and other interveners who wish to document post-disaster mental health impacts using standardized, evaluated tools that are available free of charge. Experts in the realm of mental health and surveillance from various Québec institutions have elaborated it.
This work falls within the scope of priority 26 aimed at preventing and limiting diseases, injuries, death and psychosocial impacts under the 2013-2020 Action Plan on Climate Change (APCC). Tools pertaining to extreme weather events (flooding, ice storms, and so on) were initially sought. However, mental health impacts are assessed after various natural or other disasters. The scientific literature also indicates that when a disaster occurs, the nature and scope of the losses sustained, exposure to the disaster and the previous history of the individuals influence the mental health impacts as much as the disaster’s cause (Bromet et al., 2016; Davidson and McFarlane, 2006; van der Velden et al., 2013). All of the tools developed to conduct post-event surveillance have thus been listed in this toolkit, which includes neither the tools geared to the surveillance of impacts during the impact or post-impact phase (during the disaster or immediately after) nor the environmental surveillance measurements that could be conducted after the event. Instead, it seeks to help the authorities in charge of surveillance to develop an ad hoc surveillance system to assess post-disaster mental health impacts during the recovery phase, that is, after the initial review has been conducted, the population affected has been pinpointed, and acute impacts have been measured. It is mainly the subsequent health impacts that are monitored during this phase, e.g. mental health and quality of life.