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Psychological association addresses health-risk communication and Ebola

The American Psychological Association addressed the public’s risk perception and people’s reactions to unpredictable threats like the Ebola virus outbreak in a news release on its website.The APA, in the release, said fear about catastrophic incidents often originates from a feeling of lack of control and a perceived inability to prevent the problem or threat.

To lessen anxiety about a health risk or environmental threat, people can keep the actual degree of risk they are facing in perspective and create a plan just in case. “Psychologists who specialize in managing stress and anxiety say that people who feel some sense of control while dealing with a scary, unknown situation handle the unexpected better,” according to the release.

The release also addressed how parents can communicate serious health threats to children. “According to developmental psychologists, parents should explain clearly what is known about the situation,” the APA stated in the release. “They should present strategies for eliminating or preventing the feared situation. This should include education and discussion that increase a sense of feeling of control and knowing that actions will lead to certain results.”

Psychologists who researched responses after 9/11 found that if parents were distressed about terrorism, they conveyed that information directly and indirectly to their children, which in turn raised the distress levels of their offspring, according to the release.

When such anxiety interferes with a person’s normal day-to-day functioning, that person should seek help from a qualified mental health professional. “There will not be one universal reaction to a catastrophic event,” the APA stated in the release. “But it is important to recognize that an individual’s degree of emotional response will not necessarily be proportional to the degree of exposure, amount of loss or proximity to an illness.”

To quell the public’s fears, health officials can communicate warnings about the health threat in a clear, concise and truthful manner. And the message should be delivered repeatedly. According to the APA, research on social behavior demonstrates that “panic is more likely when those entrusted with managing disasters fail to provide accurate information about what to do and where to go during impending threats” and “panic is a rare and preventable response with credible communication of accurate information.”

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By | 2014-10-09T00:00:00-04:00 October 9th, 2014|Categories: National|0 Comments

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