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Faith-based Communities and Spiritual Leaders

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This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on how spiritual leaders and faith-based communities can support behavioral health after disasters, and how faith-related support can be included in disaster behavioral health response.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s concept of the “whole community” includes faith-based communities as an influential component of disaster preparedness efforts.  Faith-based communities include places of worship, religious organizations, congregations, and the spiritual leaders who represent them. Many faith-based communities are interwoven with local communities and are some of the first to respond in disasters. In times of hardship, faith-based communities respond to survivors and assist in long-term recovery communities.

Faith-based communities provide informal and formal services related to disaster response.  Informally, faith-based communities rally around community members, offer moral uplift, and assist in fulfilling unmet needs. In other cases, faith-based organizations enter into mutual aid agreements with tribal, local, state, and federal partners in disaster response and recovery efforts.  Examples of mutual aid agreements include collecting donations, sheltering, and providing food services. The services carried out by faith-based organizations contribute to maintaining and strengthening behavioral health following disaster.

The resources listed below target religious leadership, faith-based communities, and those wishing to learn more about the role of faith-based communities in disasters. Topics covered include but are not limited to the following:

  • The role spiritual leaders and faith-based communities can play in helping with the behavioral health consequences of disasters
  • Self-care for religious leaders as they provide disaster behavioral health support
  • Ways to build resilience in faith-based communities through planning, preparedness, and mitigation
  • Engaging faith-based communities in emergency management
  • Faith-based services involved in disaster response

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