Cell phones, earthquakes, and mental health

Photo credit: istockphoto.com

When earthquakes and tsunamis strike in Asia, there are few resources to treat the resulting psychological trauma. Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization, has only two psychiatrists per 1 million people. Cell phones, reports Yale psychiatry resident Kunmi Sobowale, M.D., in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, may provide a way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression after a natural disaster. Since cell phones are becoming widely available throughout Asia, Sobowale wrote, they present an opportunity to reach a large population with digital therapy. Cell phones could also be used, the paper suggested, to better understand who is at risk of mental illness and how many people are suffering from PTSD or depression before and after a natural disaster. And the phones could direct people to evacuation sites, connect family members, or point people toward their nearest mental health provider.


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