The Psychosocial Aspects of a Deadly Epidemic
What Ebola Has Taught Us about Holistic Healing
by Judy Kuriansky, PhD, Editor
March 2016, 428pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4230-6
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4231-3
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The Ebola epidemic has caused a range of psychosocial issues—fear, stigma, and discrimination—in addition to the grim death toll.

Edited by a clinical psychologist who has been on the ground helping to develop psychosocial support for Ebola survivors in one of the hardest-hit regions of West Africa, this book explains the devastating emotional aspects of the epidemic and its impact on survivors and the population in West Africa, families in the diaspora, and people in the United States and other countries. It also describes lessons learned from past epidemics like HIV/AIDS and SARS, and valuable approaches to healing from future epidemics.

While the devastating Ebola epidemic has been contained, the effects of this outbreak—referred to by the World Health Organization as “the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times”—have wreaked a tremendous emotional toll on the populations of West Africa as well as on families and survivors worldwide. This groundbreaking book covers the psychosocial needs, programs, and policies related to the Ebola epidemic and examines broader lessons of the outbreak, such as changes in the ways in which healing from future epidemics can be handled.

Edited by Judy Kuriansky, PhD, a noted clinical psychologist and United Nations NGO representative with extensive experience helping after disasters worldwide, and direct experience gained from being “on the ground” in West Africa in the midst of the epidemic, this book identifies and explains universal psychological factors at play in all such crises. It debunks myths regarding Ebola and describes the resulting psychological and social harm caused by the epidemic. The chapters cover overarching emotional issues and problems as well as the long-term impact on at-risk groups, such as children, women, and health workers; the impact of emotional issues on social and economic life; responses of government officials, media, and various aid organizations; and solutions being offered by groups worldwide, including service and humanitarian organizations, politicians, policymakers, and public health education groups.


  • Addresses the various myths and resulting psychological, social, and economic harm caused by Ebola
  • Presents models of psychosocial support and help offered by local as well as international aid organizations
  • Covers efforts to build the mental health infrastructure of the affected countries, revealing the importance of integrating mental health care into primary health care
  • Explains government and media responses to the Ebola epidemic
  • Supplies critically important information for psychologists and mental health workers, health professionals of all disciplines, public health students, government officials, policymakers, and all individuals and groups interested in providing psychosocial support
  • Includes a foreword by an important official and endorsements by other significant stakeholders in the fight against Ebola
Judy Kuriansky, PhD, is an internationally known clinical psychologist, fellow of the American Psychological Association, United Nations NGO representative, and chair of the Psychology Coalition of NGOs accredited at the United Nations. An honorary professor at the Beijing Health Sciences Center in China who also teaches at Columbia University Teachers College, she is the founder of the Global Kids Connect Project and the Stand Up for Peace Project, serves on the board of US Doctors for Africa, and has provided psychosocial disaster recovery worldwide. Her many awards include the Lifetime Achievement in Global Peace and Tolerance from Friends of the United Nations as well as various humanitarian prizes from China and Voices of African Mothers. An award-winning journalist, Kuriansky has hosted a top-rated syndicated radio call-in show and been a feature television news reporter about psychological issues for decades, and is a sought-after commentator by multimedia. Her books include Living in an Environmentally Traumatized World: Healing Ourselves and Our Planet and Ecopsychology: Advances from the Intersection of Psychology and Environmental Protection. Her website is


"The book is useful for faculty and practitioners of psychology or medicine, as well as individuals in social work, education, and public health. Its key strengths are the presentation of a strong profile on psychosocial aspects of population and community health, as well as the discussion on how medical education may link the psychological, biological, and social determinants of health. Kuriansky’s informative collection introduces readers to the fundamentals, methods of practice, and ultimate necessity of psychosocial and holistic healing medicine as a tool for capturing the impact and nature of epidemics. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals and practitioners."—Choice, October 3, 2016

"The Ebola contagion tested the very fabric of our nation; after almost 14 months we as a people surmounted that evil. Defeat of Ebola is a testament that the heroes and heroines who lost their lives did not do so in vain; the resilience of a nation can move mountains."—Bockari K. Stevens, Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United States of America

"This is indeed a groundbreaking book! Globally respected Psychologist and a member of the US Doctors for Africa Advisory Board, Dr. Judy Kuriansky gives us a rare comprehensive insight into the extensive emotional aspects of epidemics, focusing on Ebola. As a professional of the highest caliber and a world-wide noted psychologist, an award-winning journalist and devoted humanitarian who has provided psycho-social support to people around the world, Dr. Kuriansky has put together a volume that should be read widely by professionals in all fields of educators, humanitarians, mental health experts, and scientists as well as policymakers and the public in general."—Ted M. Alemayhu, Founder & Executive Chairman of US Doctors for Africa (USDFA); Founder of the African First Ladies Health Summit and the Center for African Immigrants in the United States (CFAI); Recipient, United Nations 2008 Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award

"An important and compelling insight into the human side of the epic tragedy of the 2014 Ebola outbreak and related pandemics of SARS and AIDS, that weaves poignant personal accounts, contributions from academics, UN agencies, and first responders, with Dr. Kuriansky’s own experience and commendable mission on the ground to help during the outbreak. As I am well familiar with her extensive work advocating for mental health and well-being at the United Nations, this volume reflects her commitment to that issue and to Africa. The impressive combination of scholarship and humanitarianism confirm the critical value of psychosocial interventions, programmes, and policies for recovery and prevention of emotional trauma in any future disasters for Africa, the diaspora, and people worldwide."—His Excellency Ambassador Téte António, African Union Permanent Observer to the United Nations

"As a clinical psychologist myself, and Mayor of Monrovia, a West African city hit so hard by this epidemic, I am fully aware of the psychological impact. For this reason, I am particularly impressed with this volume my colleague Dr. Judy Kuriansky has put together, chronicling her own efforts and projects during and after the epidemic as well as perspectives and contributions by leading experts, and powerful accounts of people and communities who were, and still are, affected by this trauma. Protecting the mental health of our population as we recover is an important and crucial task. This book’s chapters are all essential guides to how to achieve healing. Dr. Kuriansky has presented views from many important perspectives, including children, women, local and international responders, and stories from Ebola survivors, communities, policymakers, health officials, and others. Everyone involved with such crises needs to read this."—Clara Doe Mvogo, Mayor, Monrovia City Government, Monrovia, Liberia, and clinical psychologist

"This ground-breaking and powerful book brings together the first comprehensive collection of contributions about psychosocial issues in relation to the deadly Ebola disease that has recently ravaged various countries in West Africa. It presents not only models of psychosocial support and ways of providing this and raising public awareness, but also broader policy recommendations, and, perhaps most importantly, the stories of those who have been touched in some way by the disease, either as victims or as professionals. One particularly courageous group of people, who when I was last in Freetown, Sierra Leone, told me harrowing stories not only of their experiences during the Ebola outbreak but of their stigmatisation since that time, is the burial workers. The book’s editor, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, who was herself courageous enough to come to this Ebola infected region at the height of need, is to be commended for the invaluable psychosocial support that she offered these workers, as reported in the book. The Ebola epidemic was particularly tragic in Sierra Leone since the country was still reeling from the effects of a brutal 11-year civil war, but in the many years during which I have worked with and researched survivors of this war I have been constantly struck by their resilience. This resilience, and the capacity not only to recover but also to learn lessons and grow following trauma, is much in evidence in this book, not least by the way in which the Ebola crisis has led highly dedicated individuals to develop more generally the provision of psychosocial support for those who are in need of this. Although much of the work presented in the book concerns the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, it has a much broader relevance in relation to psychosocial factors and responses to health emergencies and other disasters worldwide."—David A. Winter, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Programme Director, Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology and Sports Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, England; Author, Trauma, Survival and Resilience in War Zones: The Psychological Impact of War in Sierra Leone and Beyond

"This volume draws together an all-too-often overlooked set of perspectives related to mental health and psychosocial well-being in the context of health insecurity related to outbreak disease. In this extensive exploration of the stigma, fears, and distrust arising from the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa, Judy Kuriansky's indepth insights illuminate critical opportunities for more compassionate policy and programs to protect and support people faced with the risk and reality of pandemics."—Dr. Timothy G. Evans, DPhil, MD, Senior Director, Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, World Bank Group

The Psychosocial Aspects Of A Deadly Disease: What Ebola Has Taught Us About Holistic Healing provides a much-needed and comprehensive examination of the Ebola epidemic that devastated Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, caused infections in other countries, and continues to wreak havoc on West Africa and elsewhere. Dr. Kuriansky, a well-respected international clinical psychologist, has brought together a group of outstanding authorities to share their insights into the often fatal Ebola Virus Disease—focusing on the all-too-often overlooked psychosocial issues that are exceptionally important in transmission, recovery, and prevention, as they underlie the origins and the cultural factors impacting the disease, how the virus is transmitted, treatment steps taken, and the impact on vast numbers of victims: survivors, health-workers, orphans, young mothers and many others. The personal stories recounted in the book are revealing and heart-breaking, and complement enlightening academic perspectives. Equally important are the policy recommendations provided, including a model for psychosocial support in emergency situations. Dr. Kuriansky speaks with authority having worked in Sierra Leone during the epidemic, and afterwards, with traumatically-affected Ebola burial workers, children, survivors, and community groups, and shares her valuable clinical and research expertise from this region and decades of experiences in countries affected by a vast number of disasters as well as other infectious diseases, like SARS and AIDS. As someone who is exceptionally familiar with the culture of Sierra Leone for many decades, and who has been honored to be named an Honorary Paramount Chief, I am impressed with the breadth and depth of knowledge, and valuable guidance, that Dr. Kuriansky has presented in this book. I highly recommend this volume to anyone who wants to gain a good understanding of this deadly disease, and others like it, as well as to learn about how to deal with the impact of psychosocial issues on an entire social and economic system, and how to solve these issues for people, communities, and the extended world."—Gary Schulze, Editor of The Ebola News Summary, Honorary Paramount Chief of Kagboro Chiefdom, Sierra Leone, and Former Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone
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