Bali bomb lessons helped shape Australia's mental health response to terrorism and trauma

Australian healthcare professionals were able to offer better mental health support to the victims of the 2005 Bali bombings, thanks to improved procedures and services introduced after the first explosions in 2002, according to the May issue of the UK-based Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing.

Staff at the Royal Darwin Hospital who treated many of the casualties - also received vital personal support from mental health nurses, especially as they waited anxiously for the first victims to arrive.

"The 2002 bombings were Australia's first large-scale introduction to terrorist activity in the immediate geographical area and they initiated a new phase of trauma response for public health services in the country" says Anthony Guscott of Top End Mental Health Services, which provides in-patient and consultation liaison nursing services at the Royal Darwin Hospital.

"A national mental health response to mass trauma was established and this proved particularly useful to the Royal Darwin Hospital, which handled a large number of casualties from both bombings."

The national group driving the national mental health guidance were also able to draw on their experiences of other traumatic events, including the Eyre Peninsula bushfires that killed nine people and injured 110 in South Australia in January 2005.

This national guidance was then used to shape more effective local front line mental health services to cover both day-to-day needs and cope with major incidents. For example, the Royal Darwin Hospital now has a round-the-clock mental health presence in the emergency department and other departments can call on out-of-hours' support as needed.

Many of the bomb victims suffered profound mental health problems immediately after the bombings. In 2002 the mental health response was poorly planned, but the lessons learnt from the first incident meant that in 2005 patients' physical and mental heal

Contact: Annette Whibley
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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