Coping and disaster recovery for mental health professionals

During the recovery phase following the disaster, both you and your consumers or clients will continue to experience stress, grief, and perhaps even some symptoms of depression and anxiety. During this recovery phase physical problems, such as changes in sleep and appetite, digestive problems, more susceptibility to colds or other illnesses, and increased use of alcohol and other drugs, are also common. We as well as those we accompany clinically may also have emotional responses, such as fear, irritability, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, feelings of betrayal, and loss of interest in everyday activities.
What can you do to cope, and to facilitate in your clients or consumers coping, in your journey toward recovery from disaster? Here are some helpful suggestions:

Some consumers or clients will be resistant to these strategies and perceive you as suggesting that their struggles are “all in their heads.” Educating them with some easily understood techniques and exampleswill tend to diminish this perception.

Remember that people who engage fully in recovery from disaster discover unexpected benefits. As they gradually heal their wounds, survivors and mental health providers alike find that they are also developing inner strength, compassion for others, increasing self-awareness, and often the most surprising -- a greater ability to experience joy and serenity than ever before.

Web Links

This guide lists ten helpful stress management techniques, some of which are found above, that both you and your clients can use following a disaster.

This page lists the common physical and emotional responses to traumatic events and provides strategies for coping.

This page, entitled “Coping With Disasters,” is a complete guide to understanding and managing post-disaster stress. It links to helpful fact sheets from organizations such as the National Center for PTSD, the Center for Mental Health Services, and FEMA.

This article, entitled “Become a Survivor: How to Find Peace of Mind Following Life’s Traumas,” provides strategies for healing, relieving stress, and obtaining a healthy outlook after traumatic events.

This SAMHSA pamphlet addresses multiple aspects of life after a disaster and provides tips on dealing with stress, changes within the self and within relationships, as well as financial worries.

This page provides an in-depth view on different levels of stress and practical coping strategies that apply to various aspects of everyday living.