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Psychological resilience and post-traumatic growth in disaster-exposed organisations: overview of the literature

Abstract

As disasters become increasingly prevalent, and reported on, a wealth of literature on post-disaster mental health has been published. Most published evidence focuses on symptoms of mental health problems (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety) and psychosocial factors increasing the risk of such symptoms. However, a recent shift in the literature has moved to exploring resilience and the absence of adverse lasting mental health effects following a disaster. This paper undertakes a qualitative review of the literature to explore factors affecting psychological resilience, as well as the potential positive impact of experiencing a disaster (post-traumatic growth) by examining the literature on employees in disaster-exposed organisations. We identify several protective factors: training, experience, and perceived (personal) competence; social support; and effective coping strategies. Post-traumatic growth frequently appeared to occur at both personal and professional levels for those rescue staff after a disaster, giving employees a greater appreciation of life and their relationships, enhancing their self-esteem and providing a sense of accomplishment and better understanding of their work. Implications, in terms of how to build a resilient workforce, are discussed.

  • disasters
  • mental health
  • post-traumatic growth
  • resilience

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