Online Disaster Behavioral Health Trainings

This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on online disaster behavioral health training opportunities available to people interested in expanding knowledge and skills pertaining to psychological disaster response. An increase in the number of natural and human-caused disasters has made it more important than ever for communities to be prepared for these events. The individuals who serve these communities play an important role in helping communities prepare for and recover from disasters and build resilience. The following trainings are appropriate for emergency managers, public health workers, community health workers, crisis counselors, social workers and other behavioral health clinicians, first responders, volunteers, students, or any other people serving their community and interested in disaster recovery topics.

The trainings in this installment cover a range of topics, including crisis intervention, Psychological First Aid, preparedness and response, resilience-building, and psychological responses to disasters. The trainings listed are free to the public; however, they may require you to register with a training website in order to take them. Some of the trainings also offer continuing education unit credits.

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Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

This training covers sources of stress for disaster workers other than first responders, including staff of federal agencies, state and local public health agencies, utilities, social services, repair and cleanup contractors, and voluntary organizations. The training categorizes and describes stressors; discusses signs of stress and their effects on individuals and families; and presents strategies for individuals, families, and workplaces for managing stress and fostering resilience.

University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health

This 45-minute course focuses on providing an understanding of the biological, psychological, cognitive, social, and spiritual responses to stress as a consequence of disasters. Objectives include learning about the biological responses to threat and dangers and understanding the effects of disasters on individuals and communities.

National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)

Designed for local health department personnel, this course prepares people who manage individuals and teams to use Psychological First Aid (PFA) to foster resilience in those they lead and supervise and help them to do the best work they can. The course describes PFA, an evidence-informed, modular approach for helping people in the immediate aftermath of natural and human-caused disasters, and it explains how leaders can use PFA with their teams.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD (VA, PTSD)

This section of the website of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is for professional researchers, providers, and helpers who are concerned with trauma. The website brings together free, in-depth continuing education courses with topics ranging from PTSD to secondary traumatic stress.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This 1.5-hour course helps first responders assist individuals in crisis living with mental illness or substance use disorders using safe, positive approaches. It also helps first responders better understand mental health and illness and substance use disorders so they can apply safer strategies during crisis situations. The course is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Pre-hospital Continuing Education for continuing education unit credits for emergency medical services providers.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

The CCP has several required trainings for crisis counselors employed by a Federal Emergency Management Agency CCP grant. Many of these trainings are delivered in person; however, the PowerPoint presentations and other course materials have been made available. In addition, there are several online training videos that have been made available to crisis counselors interested in obtaining skills in supporting disaster survivors.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (HHS, OMH)

This program is designed for first responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), emergency managers, physical and behavioral health care practitioners, and others who work on disaster preparedness and response and would like to ensure that they provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. OMH developed this curriculum to help people involved in disaster response and support of disaster-affected communities to provide services that reach and are effective for people of all cultures. EMTs, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and dentists can earn continuing education credits for completion of the curriculum.

Columbia University

This 1-hour course defines disaster-related trauma in children and helps learners to identify the indicators that a young survivor may need further intervention. The course also provides potential interventions to assist children in recovering from disaster-related trauma and building resilience.

Local Public Health Institute of Massachusetts

This 2-hour training describes the stressors that response work may involve and possible consequences of stress. It equips responders with an arsenal of techniques for addressing and managing stress and heightening resilience. The training provides an in-depth look at the stress response within an individual, defines and describes compassion fatigue, explores individual and group resilience, and introduces Psychological First Aid and other methods and approaches to coping with stress and fostering resilience.

University of Washington, School of Public Health, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

Designed for public health workers including behavioral health providers and practitioners, health care providers and practitioners, first responders, and emergency planners, this 1-hour training provides an overview of the psychological challenges communities may face after a disaster occurs. Topics include the psychological phases of a community-wide disaster, mental health risks that rescue workers and victims face, and signs a survivor needs additional mental health assistance.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS, CDC)

The CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response offers training in emergency preparedness and response for public health workers, health care workers, and public leaders. The trainings focus on public health preparedness and community planning and engagement.

University of Iowa

This 1-hour course provides general knowledge of how disaster trauma affects children and adolescents. The course also emphasizes skills such as administering Psychological First Aid to children in the aftermath of a disaster and screening them for mental health disorders in the months that follow. The course is provided through Prepare Iowa, a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa.

Iowa Department of Public Health

Provided through Prepare Iowa, a collaboration of the Iowa Department of Health and the University of Iowa, this 1-hour course is intended for anyone who may come into professional contact with disaster victims. The objectives of the course include defining disaster and trauma and understanding how proximity to a disaster event affects the potential for a traumatic response.

Iowa Department of Public Health

In this 1-hour course, information is provided on mental health assessment and intervention with disaster survivors, as well as on making sure that services provided after a disaster are culturally appropriate. The course is intended for people who will support disaster survivors as part of their work, including members of disaster medical assistance teams, emergency medical technicians, primary care practitioners, and public health professionals. The course is provided through Prepare Iowa, a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa.

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

This 2-hour course covers the mental health effects disaster may have on survivors, including acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. It provides public health professionals with information about common mental health consequences of disasters, strategies in the immediate response to a disaster that can help with prevention of mental disorders, and public health approaches to post-disaster mental health.

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

In this 2-hour course, public health professionals will learn about common individual and group reactions to disasters, principles of crisis communications, and ways in which communications can support the behavioral health of the public after a disaster. The course also covers disaster mental health myths likely to appear in media coverage of the disaster and its aftermath.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

This part of FEMA's website describes IS courses offered through FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (EMI). Designed for first responders, emergency medical services personnel, and the public, EMI IS courses cover a range of emergency management topics. Although the courses do not focus specifically on disaster behavioral health, they cover the National Response Framework, National Incident Management System, Incident Command System, and other topics that may help disaster behavioral health professionals ensure integration of disaster behavioral health preparedness and response with general emergency preparedness, response, and management.

University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health

This training, which lasts approximately 4 hours, covers the behavioral health effects disasters often have on survivors and provides responders with ways in which they can support survivors in coping. It is appropriate for anyone, professional or volunteer, helping survivors of a natural or human-caused disaster.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program provides a general overview of disaster preparedness and weapons of mass destruction. This online training is the first step for individuals who are interested in being involved in disaster preparedness and response. The website notes that in order to become a volunteer, individuals must also complete a classroom training offered by a local government agency.

University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Part of the North Carolina Disaster Response Network training for mental health professionals, this 30-minute training module offers basic information about disaster mental health work. It introduces fundamentals of disaster response and Psychological First Aid, an evidence-informed, modular approach for assisting survivors in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The module also identifies populations that are especially vulnerable in disasters and some ways to support these populations.

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

This 2-hour training covers the unique needs of children during disasters and other emergencies from medical and public health perspectives. Presenters discuss the health care delivery system that serves children; review experiences after disasters; and present strategies at national, state, and local levels for ensuring that children's needs are met in and after disasters.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

Psychological First Aid (PFA) online is an interactive course in which the participant learns about PFA by taking on the role of a provider after a disaster. The course includes expert tips, videos, activities, and access to an online learning community.

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Developed for emergency medical services, fire, and law enforcement personnel, as well as emergency management officials and emergency department nurses, this course provides information and training to help first responders make good decisions in a post-disaster environment. The course presents models for making smart decisions and maximizing safety for teams on the scene of a response. Consisting of five modules, the course is approximately 4 hours long.

University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health

This 35-minute course provides an overview of resiliency after a disaster occurs. The learning objectives for this course include distinguishing the difference between stress, strain, and resilience; understanding the coping-resiliency relationship; and identifying whether resiliency is predictable for everyone.

University of Iowa

Provided through Prepare Iowa, a collaboration of the Iowa Department of Health and the University of Iowa, this 30-minute course utilizes scenarios to cover concepts of Psychological First Aid in responding to disasters. The scenarios allow the user to make decisions about how to respond to the emotional needs of disaster victims. It is intended for public health workers and anyone involved with post-disaster recovery.

University of Washington, School of Public Health, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

Appropriate for public health professionals, nurses, program managers, administrative employees, and first responders, this 1-hour course prepares people to support disaster survivors in crisis in meeting their emotional needs. The course covers models of crisis management and steps responders can take in engaging survivors and helping them with meeting their needs and coping after a disaster.

University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Part of the North Carolina Disaster Response Network training for mental health professionals, this 35-minute training module explains why responders providing mental health support to disaster survivors should prioritize self-care, describes compassion fatigue, and presents self-care practices. It also highlights the positive effects of helping others that responders may experience.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This 1-hour course provides law enforcement officers with foundational skills to better understand and address the behavioral health stressors that are unique to work in their field. It helps them to recognize signs of stress that they or their colleagues may be experiencing due to their line of work, learn strategies to cope with stress and enhance resilience, and find support if needed.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

Developed collaboratively by NCTSN and the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, SPR is an evidence-informed intervention that can be delivered by anyone supporting post-disaster recovery. People providing SPR to disaster survivors can do so in a single session for each of six core skills, with reinforcement with handouts and practice done after the session.

Columbia University, Earth Institute, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia Regional Learning Center

This course reviews findings from research on the physical and mental health effects of the 9/11 attacks and other disasters. Appropriate for public health professionals, emergency managers, and crisis communication professionals, the course covers key insights from research about how disasters affect survivors, promotion of resilience, populations at increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, and how the media may affect survivors and the public.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

The NCTSN Learning Center is a training portal that offers free online education related to child and adolescent trauma. Over 300 of the free online courses offer continuing education certificates, and the portal includes over 200 webinars. The main webpage highlights courses that are new, trending, and most popular. The website features a section with trainings specifically related to disasters and their effects on Children and Youth DBHIS: https://learn.nctsn.org/course/index.php?categoryid=52.

Iowa Department of Public Health

Provided through Prepare Iowa, a collaboration of the Iowa Department of Health and the Institute for Public Health Practice at the University of Iowa, this 15-minute course is designed to make emergency responders aware of the stress they may experience during disaster response and to equip them with ways to manage stress. The course presents symptoms of traumatic stress and techniques for managing stress during and after disaster response.

University of Washington, School of Public Health, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

This 45-minute course examines the effects that disasters, other emergencies, and stress in general can have on workers. It covers the stressors workers are likely to face, the various effects of these stressors, and individual and team resilience in disasters. Part of a three-course series on workforce resiliency, this course is appropriate for first responders, rescue workers, nurses, and public health professionals.

University of Washington, School of Public Health, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

The second in a three-course series, this course provides information for public health professionals, first responders, rescue workers, and nurses to help them develop and enhance resiliency in themselves and their workplaces prior to a disaster or other emergency. The 45-minute course covers coping styles, strategies to boost organizational resilience, and a method to foster personal resiliency.

University of Washington, School of Public Health, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

The final course in a series on workforce resilience, this course addresses ways in which people and organizations can maintain and return to resiliency in and after a disaster or other emergency. The course covers organizational goal-setting for resiliency, how to cope with common disaster-related stressors, and steps that people and organizations can take to safeguard and foster resiliency throughout disaster response.

Last Updated: 04/26/2018