The mental health and psycho-social impacts of radiological and nuclear emergencies and their mitigation has been on the policy agenda for several decades – in view of improving both emergency preparedness and response plans and recovery frameworks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published the Framework for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies to provide high-level policy guidance in this area. The NEA Expert Group on Non-radiological Public Health Aspects of Radiation Emergency Planning and Response (EGNR) is currently working on an operational extension of the WHO framework, which will provide practical solutions, approaches and tools to integrate mental health and psychosocial support into protective action plans.
The group held a meeting on 20 May 2021 and decided to propose practical key actions at various governance levels during different phases of a nuclear or radiological emergency, e.g. the training of nuclear/radiation workers and mental health experts, as well as communication and engagement with local communities.
The list of key actions will be structured around the three phases of emergencies: i) preparedness, ii) response, and iii) recovery. Each key action will be accompanied with additional information on the cross-cutting concepts of the WHO framework. These include co-ordination, communication, community resilience and engagement, capacity building and training, core ethical considerations for community-based mental health and psychosocial support. A summary table will also be prepared to provide an overview of all the key actions to guide decision makers in member countries while planning for, responding to, and recovering from a nuclear or radiological emergency.
The group is now preparing an abstract of its main findings for dissemination at the upcoming International Conference on the Development of Preparedness for National and International Emergency Response (EPR2021), which will be held on 11-15 October 2021 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in co-operation with the NEA.