[Mental health care systems and provisions in the immediate and acute phase of the Great East Japan Earthquake: situational and support activities in Miyagi Prefecture].

Kazunori Matsumoto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, was followed by a huge tsunami that caused catastrophic damage to the area extending from the Tohoku to Kanto regions. It was also accompanied by the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Mental health service provisions were hit equally hard by the disaster, with a wide range of support and relief activities being implemented. This article reviews damage that was inflicted and support activities that were carried out in the mental health field in Miyagi Prefecture in the immediate aftermath and acute phase of the disaster, and also examines future challenges. Almost all mental health institutions in Miyagi Prefecture were affected by the disaster, and experienced difficulties such as feeding inpatients and securing necessary medication. Mental health institutions in the coastal area, in particular, were severely hit. Three hospitals-were seriously damaged by the tsunami, which forced them to make arrangements for the transfer of 300 inpatients. In the aftermath of the earthquake, it became difficult to access medical institutions, and confusion ensued regarding the provision of mental health services. Many municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture were seriously affected by the disaster, and information-gathering was crippled due to the disruption of communication and transport networks. Consequently, the administrative function regarding mental health service provisions was significantly impaired. Through official, private, and academic channels, volunteers in the field of mental health were sent to the affected areas in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. It was very difficult to coordinate these volunteers because of the confusion in gathering-information and in the chain of command for support activities. The number of support teams working in the affected areas peaked one to two months after the earthquake, but it became clear that continuous and long-term support in mental health service provisions by external support teams was necessary in some remote areas. Measures were taken to care for the elderly and children, to tackle alcohol-related problems, and provide support for volunteers, but many challenges remain. When a disaster hits, measures appropriate to the nature and size of the disaster become necessary, and the need arises to construct a model to facilitate such responses. It is now necessary to integrate mental health measures with a municipality's plan for medical care in a disaster, along with develop a permanent system to provide support for mental health care at the time of a disaster.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-188
Number of pages14
JournalSeishin shinkeigaku zasshi = Psychiatria et neurologia Japonica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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