Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event
Planning Resources for State and Local Governments
Emergencies can have a significant impact on individuals’ mental and behavioral health. State and local health departments should include mental health management in each phase of a disaster (pre-event, response, recovery, and evaluation).
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
- People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.
- Understand demographic and social characteristics. Identify the language needs, cultural considerations, and reading levels in your area.
- Build relationships with public health officials, community stakeholders, private and public medical providers, and school officials.
- Identify policy and resources for staff support.
- Find behavioral health treatment facilities in your state.
- Work with the National Association of Mental Health Program Directors.
- Establish the role of partners, like community-based organizations, in mental health services during an emergency.
- Identify and train mental health professionals and response staff to provide counseling, triage, outreach, and education during a crisis or emergency.
- Plan for interpreter and translation services.
- Train provider groups, including public health nurses, school health professionals, and community support workers in psychosocial consequences of terrorism and disasters.
- Develop a risk communication plan and templates.
- Develop a triage system to connect victims with emergency mental health services when needed.
Assess these community characteristics:
- Culture, religion, ethnicity
- Shared values
- Social resources
- Access to healthcare
- Average level of education
- At-risk populations
- Languages spoken
- Local non-governmental and community-based organizations
- First meet basic safety and security needs of target populations.
- Provide Psychological First Aid at response sites.
- Use crisis and emergency risk communication principles in all messaging.
- Continue to monitor the mental health needs of victims and responders.
- Provide access to counselors in all appropriate languages.
- Distribute educational information appropriate to the event.
- Use triage system to connect victims in acute distress with professional services.
- Provide coping resources for responders and their families.
- Continue to monitor mental health needs in the affected population.
- Train social and community leaders on how to help their groups cope.
- Give the community opportunities to come together.
- Promote availability of coping resources.
- Anticipate and plan to deal with trauma reminders (such as anniversaries of the event date, or the broadcast of similar incidents on the news).
- Monitor for long-term mental stress in the community and for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Identify and address gaps in your mental health preparedness plan.
- Resources for Leaders to Help Communities Cope
- Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) program
- Mental Health All-Hazards Disaster Planning Guidance (SAMHSA)
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator (SAMHSA).
- Skills for Psychological Recovery– an intervention designed to follow Psychological First Aid in the weeks and months following disasters and mass violence events. (SAMHSA).
- Resources for School Personnel (National Child Traumatic Stress Network- NCTSN)
- Page last reviewed: March 25, 2016
- Page last updated: March 19, 2018
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