Is it difficult to call attention to the issue of mental health in a situation like this?
Unfortunately with an event of this magnitude and loss of life, we tend to forget the long-term consequences. If people are not able to return to normal mental functioning, it results in the delay in return to well-being and building society.
It's critical to keep mental health in mind. It's understandable we tend to forget it, given the images of devastation. When the event is over, we tend to forget about these populations, and that is when these populations need the most support.
Have other recent disasters, like the 2008 magnitude 7.9 earthquake in China, helped us learn about the consequences of these events?
There's been a lot of interest in this area in the past decade, especially since the September 11th attacks. We have learned from the Madrid bombings, from the London subway and bus bombings, from the earthquakes in China, and the tsunami. We understand what the likelihood of mental illness is going to be.
So what is the rate of mental illness likely to be after an event like this?
In the first month after the event I would not be surprised to see 16 percent of the population with post-traumatic stress and a similar number—about 20 percent—with depression. That's a huge part of the population: about one in five.
You will find about half of the cases resolve about six months after the event.
Do you think there will be adequate ways to deal with this in Haiti?
This is part of the challenge with events that happen in poorer countries that don't have the infrastructure to deal with people trying to go back to normal life. I worry that there is not going to be the resources to deal with the overwhelming need that there's going to be.