César A. Alfonso, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center and Behavioral Health Services Chief Psychiatrist, published an article in Psychiatric Times called “PTSD and Suicide After Natural Disasters.” Citing the devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Dr. Alfonso noted that the prevalence of PTSD among victims doubles after a natural disaster and lasts for two years afterward.
In Puerto Rico, a million people are expected to present with PTSD in the two years post-Maria, and hundreds will die by suicide. Puerto Rico now has a suicide rate higher than the U.S., climbing from 19 suicides monthly in the eight months before the hurricane to 25 a month in the three months afterward. Compounding the problem is a drop in the island’s economic income and an exodus of psychiatric professionals, falling from 500 to 300 over the last decade. Dr. Alfonso called on the World Psychiatric Association and American Psychiatric Association to heighten awareness of this crisis among its members.
Dr. Alfonso has also recently released a book entitled Advances in Psychodynamic Psychiatry with Richard C. Friedman, MD and Jennifer I. Downey, MD. The publication is a compilation of articles from Psychodynamic Psychiatry, on how contemporary practitioners are using a multidimensional biopsychosocial approach to increase the robustness of clinical research and the effectiveness of patient care.