Humanitarian Project to Help the Victims of the Beirut Explosions
Training program for Lebanese health professionals in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder with reconsolidation therapy following the explosions of August 4th, 2020, in the port of Beirut.
Professor Alain BRUNET, PhD
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University (Montreal). Researcher, Douglas Institute/ CIUSSS-ODIM (Montreal)
Professor Sami RICHA, MD, PhD
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Saint-Joseph University (Beirut) Head of the Psychiatry Department, Hôtel-Dieu de France (Beirut)
The objectives of this humanitarian project
- Train and supervise Lebanese mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses) so that they can quickly treat with Reconsolidation Therapy a large number of victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the explosions in Beirut. It will act on the resilience of the Lebanese population through efficient psychotherapeutic treatment.
- Increase the capacity to take care of traumatized victims in Beirut.
- Launch an action research initiative to document/disseminate this initiative.
The local context and the issues raised
Two explosions in the port of Beirut occurred on 08/04/2020 leaving 190 dead, 40 missing and 6,500 injured according to a provisional assessment. The humanitarian challenges created by this explosion, with damage estimated at US $15 billion, focusing on access to housing (300,000 people homeless following the explosion), food security (hampered by the destruction of the port), and physical and mental health.
Based on observations made during the September 11, 2001 attacks, for example, it is estimated that the number of PTSD cases in Beirut linked to this explosion could range between 6% and 12% over the next 6 months (Neria et al., 2011). This represents between 120,000 and 240,000 people possibly suffering from PTSD.
Clinicians in Lebanon – around 1,000 all professions combined (psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals adept to treat patients) have little training in the treatment of psychotrauma. However, following the explosion of 04/08/2020, thousands of Beirutis were traumatized.
Lebanese are likely to suffer from PTSD in 2021
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Description of the aid project in Lebanon
The present humanitarian project proposed for Beirut involves a partnership between Prof. Sami Richa, professor of psychiatry at the University of St-Joseph / head of service at the Hôtel-Dieu de France (Beirut), president of the Lebanese Society of Psychiatry and Prof. Alain Brunet, professor at the Douglas research center within the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University in Montreal (Quebec, Canada).
This large-scale training program constitutes a public health project for Lebanon and specifically in the field of mental health. It will consist of training 100 mental health professionals/clinicians (psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, etc.) in the efficient psychotherapeutic protocol of Reconsolidation Therapy to rapidly treat the Lebanese population suffering from PTSD.
This project is inspired by the “Paris Mémoire vive (Paris MEM)” program deployed by Prof. Alain BRUNET (instigator/coordinator of the project) in partnership with the AP-HP. The objective of this project was to try to increase the capacity to take care of the victims of the mass attacks in Paris and Nice in 2015-2016, offering the innovative treatment that is Reconsolidation Therapy. Two hundred psychiatrists, psychologists and state-certified nurses were trained within the AP-HP and the CHU of Nice. Hundreds of direct/indirect victims (estimated at 400) in NICE and PARIS were treated by these trained mental health professionals.
Why train in the psychotherapeutic protocol of Reconsolidation Therapy?
- The treatment is short and efficient for people suffering from PTSD (6 weeks), suitable for this type of emergency context for the recovery of victims
- The training is recognized by the Ordre des psychologues du Québec (OPQ), by the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and by the Datadock (France) as continuing education.
- The protocol taught is based on 20 years of scientific research carried out at the Douglas Institute (McGill University)
- The training offered is fast (16 hours over 3 days) and comprehensive
- Training and educational material already exist in French and English
- The training is already taught each month face-to-face or remotely (online)
- Weekly group clinical supervision will be offered
- Trained trainees will also be able to ask questions on a confidential discussion forum to Alain Brunet and his team. The forum will serve as a community of practice through a web platform managed by the International Association for Reconsolidation Therapy (IART), a non-profit association.
Who will be trained?
The 100 trained therapists will commit to treating a number of patients free of charge and collecting clinical data as part of a research project involving the Douglas Institute and St-Joseph (Lebanon) and McGill (Canada) universities.
The following professional associations have shown an interest in having their members trained:
- The Lebanese Society of Psychiatry (of which Prof. Richa is the president).
- Psychologists from the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA).
- Trainee psychologists from Saint Joseph University in Beirut.
- The staff of the psychiatry department of the Hôtel-Dieu de France, in Beirut
The non-profit IART will organize the training logistics. The training will be given remotely (online). The groups will be formed progressively according to the applications
The provisional schedule
The start of training is scheduled for September 23 with the training of the first group of 6 Lebanese therapists. A ramp-up is planned gradually with the objective of training a hundred mental health professionals within 6 months.
We are currently seeking funding for the project. A collaborative fundraising activity through donations has been set up and is accessible here:
Research and community of clinical practice
This humanitarian training program is part of an action research program led by Prof. Brunet (McGill University) and Richa (St-Joseph University, Beirut). The data collected by the Lebanese therapists will be used for research.
To help clinicians better master the Reconsolidation Therapy, a community of practices of Lebanese therapists trained in Reconsolidation Therapy will be set up once a month remotely.