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PSYCRIS Report Summary

Project ID: 312395
Funded under: FP7-SECURITY
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - PSYCRIS (PSYcho-Social Support in CRISis Management)

Project Context and Objectives:
Disasters, whether limited by national borders or affecting several countries, always pose a challenge to affected individuals. PsyCris aims to contribute to the efforts to improve psychosocial support in a European context through a particular focus on crisis managers. Research and development in PsyCris are based on a multi-disciplinary approach, including methods from psychology, education sciences, engineering, sociology, and health sciences. In the future the possibility of exchange amongst crisis managers will be offered via a customized, web-based platform (PPP Platform) that includes relevant results generated during the project. The 10 partners of the consortium comprise research centres, public bodies, SMEs, and stakeholder organisations from Germany (LMU, BayFOR; BSO), Spain (UGR; COPAO), Israel (CHC), Lithuania (KKP), Luxembourg (GSP), and Austria (UMIT; ISI).
Together, they aspire to or already have achieved these goals:
(1) Status quo analysis of psychological and medical support available during crises in European countries
(2) Improvement of support strategies for affected persons, victims, and crisis managers
(3) Enhancement of preparedness for major incidents (contingency planning)
(4) Development of intervention strategies designed to deal with stress and reduce stress-related disorders of crisis management personnel and authorities
(5) Provide effective self-help strategies to communities affected by crises
(6) Investigate the long-term psychosocial, societal, and cultural impact of crises, including the impact on public health care
In the future the possibility of exchange amongst crisis managers will be offered via a customized, web-based platform (PPP Platform) that includes relevant results generated during the project.
Stakeholders and end-users are involved in the development of PsyCris’ envisioned output (e.g. PPP Platform,).

Project Results:
The project is organized in nine work packages (WP), which progressed as followed:
WP1 originally identified common European disaster scenarios that were further developed into case studies together with partners and end-users. These will be integrated into the PPP Platform. In addition, LMU ran two empirical flood-related studies to further evaluate results, while intensifying contact to stakeholders.
WP2 focuses on psychosocial support for affected groups (incl. disaster managers). Meta-analyses added significantly to our research. Eight disaster phases considering psychosocial aspects were developed, which together with further qualitative methods led to the development of recommendations for psychosocial support. Results suggests differences across European member states in regards to psychosocial support structures, however promising best practice models that could be applied across Europe were identified. Results are being integrated into the PPP Platform.
WP3 further investigated case studies regarding longer-term impact on public healthcare. Aspects of health care systems and sociological parameters were explored via a questionnaire. Results suggest a need for better health evaluation programs after disasters (esp. timeframes and recovery efforts of psychosocial support). It was observed that disasters may lead to changes in law, prevention, or health care and its infrastructure over the past decades. Results are further processed to be integrated in the PPP-Platform.
WP4 aims to advance and develop relevant forms of stress management and assessment. Thus, interviews with crisis managers were analysed and reported, biofeedback training advanced and tested by two psychophysiological studies, and an online stress assessment tool (PSAB) further developed and integrated in the PPP Platform. A cognitive-behavioural stress management training and the biofeedback-based training procedure were developed based on the previous studies assessing the requirements of the target group, and both trainings were integrated in the PPP Platform.
WP5 evaluated contingency planning to provide psychosocial support to large numbers of people. Results suggest that existing plans may not adequately provide such support. Thus, informal social networks among potential PSS providers outside formal disaster agencies are being investigated as promising contingency planning. Preliminary guidelines were drafted and an online questionnaire has been distributed to assess the proposed contingency plan.
WP6 investigated how people can help themselves and confirmed the importance of community resilience. Results suggest that such societal capacity is lacking recognition by crisis managers. Based on data gathered following a major incident, literature searches, and a specifically organised symposium, a set of recommendations was developed.. Material for public education, awareness and dissemination was developed, among them an animated clip.
WP7 is optimising the planned learning environment while adapting to project needs. A prototype of the PPP Platform and web-based trainings were developed. This prototype is going to be tested and refined.
WP8 set up the project webpage and is active in social media therefore reaching a broad European and international audience. Informative, project material was produced to foster the flow of information among partners the scientific community, crisis managers and the public. A special focus is placed on stakeholder and end-user groups.
WP9 supported collaboration between partners and external stakeholders. It supported the partners in the organisation of workflow and timely achievement of objectives, monthly routines, document management, WP compatibility, and administrative and financial processes. It also monitored the integration of evidence-based content into the envisioned demonstrator of the platform.

Potential Impact:
The continued relevance of PsyCris's objectives can be seen in several ways. For one, with an increased number of cross-border disasters across Europe, PsyCris addresses a critical need for a continued and substantial increase of psychosocial support in crisis management.. Secondly, it has also focused on the role of psychosocial support in stress management at the crisis management level as a means of reducing stress and leading to more effective decision making. A main result will be the envisioned web-based, so-called “PPP Platform” distributing the research results to the community of crisis managers to offer adequate support.
Connecting crisis managers across Europe, including their insights on the effectiveness of particular interventions via such a platform, will be an important step forward in crisis management. We also hope that such developments will lead to further involvement of health & public authorities, policy makers and supervising authorities and to inform them about needs in psychosocial support.
To date, our results suggest a critical need for a continued and substantial increase in psychosocial crisis managers to mitigate the short and long term impact on an increasing larger number of affected persons. As an initial step a set of strategic recommendations for psychosocial support in disaster management has been formulated. On the other hand, work on longer-term impact has discovered a need for better disaster health assessments. The current investigation of societal capacities seems to be a promising avenue for further research and feasible approaches regarding psychosocial support in different crisis scenarios. This aspect has also been vital in seeking to improve ways in which people can help themselves. Here, our results suggest that capacities, like community resilience are lacking recognition by crisis managers. We approached this issue by developing numerous pieces of informative material for crisis managers and affected persons, including recommendations on how to involve local groups of people. For situations involving a large number of people, we are investigating the issue of contingency planning with the aim to extend existing structures by involving informal social networks among potential psychosocial support providers. Thus, the overall aim is to improve psychosocial support intended for the crisis management in Europe as well the measures provided by them. Only if they get the best possible support can they deliver the best possible results for the respective communities. The expected impact in terms of economic and social benefit to society in general are hopefully also seen in the savings that can be expected in terms of health costs involved in the care and rehabilitation of those involved in disaster incidents.

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