[Excerpt] Psychosocial capacity building, which is a more common approach in response to disasters outside of Western Europe and the U.S., was, in part, a reaction against the perceived “traumatization” and pathologizing of disaster survivors, as well as the over-emphasis on the individual at the expense of the collectivity and community (Ager, 1997; IASC, 2007; Kleinman & Cohen, 1997; Miller, in press; Mollica, 2006; Strang & Ager, 2003; Summerfield 1995; 2000; Wessels, 1999; Wessels & Monteiro, 2006). The accent with psychosocial capacity building is equally on the social as well as the psychological. Some of the tenets of this approach are: an emphasis on families, groups and communities; focusing on strengths, capacities and sources of resiliency; a wariness of the medicalization of social reactions to abnormal situations; centralizing culture and its impact on meaning making after a disaster, expression of affect and its implications for healing; using local, indigenous, often non-professional people as the designers and implementers of projects; supporting and reconstructing mutual aid and self-help groups; taking into account socio-cultural variables such as race, class, and gender when considering the impact of a disaster and how to respond to it. Although there are clearly different points of emphasis, a mental health approach and psychosocial capacity building approach are not mutually exclusive and can be combined for effective, multi-systemic interventions to respond to disasters. There were elements of both approaches in the project described in this paper.
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