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Disaster Behavioral Health

Disaster behavioral health is the provision of mental health, substance abuse, and stress management services to disaster survivors and responders.
Following an emergency event, it is common for individuals and families in and around the affected region to experience distress and anxiety about safety, health, and recovery. Previous exposure to large scale events, such as a severe hurricane or flood, may place residents and responders who experience a new disaster at greater risk for adverse stress reactions. People may display symptoms and reactions such as:
  • Emotional symptoms such as irritability or excessive sadness.
  • Cognitive dysfunction such as difficulty making decisions or following directions.
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, stomach pain, or difficulty breathing.
  • Behavioral reactions such as consuming more alcohol or interpersonal conflict.
  • Failure to adhere to needed physical or psychiatric medication needs.
Other factors that can influence how people respond to disaster include:
  • Residents of disaster affected areas may be displaced, living in temporary emergency shelters, and separated from their usual support systems.
  • Circumstances may make it difficult to learn the status of recovery efforts or to find out the condition of friends, family members, and communities.
  • The exposure of disaster responders and volunteers to widespread destruction, the injury or death of others, or to hazardous materials may result in distress or a need for support.