Disasters can occur naturally (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, mudslides, or drought) or be human-caused (e.g., mass shootings, chemical spills, or terrorist attacks). Preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and traumatic events is essential to the behavioral health of individuals and communities alike.
When people experience a disaster, they may experience a variety of reactions, many of which are natural responses to difficult situations. Most people show resilience after a disaster. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, cope with adversity, and endure during difficult situations. Thankfully, resilience in disaster recovery is ordinary, not extraordinary, and people regularly demonstrate this ability. Using supportive resources to address stress and other hardships is a critical component of resilience.
It is also common for people to show signs of stress after exposure to a disaster making it important to monitor the physical and emotional health of those affected as well as those responding to the needs of others. Although everyone reacts differently to disasters, some of those affected may suffer from serious mental or emotional distress. These individuals may develop or experience exacerbation of existing mental health or substance use problems, including for example, post-traumatic stress disorder. Finding treatment in a timely fashion will help individuals minimize negative outcomes.
SAMHSA’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) supports SAMHSA’s efforts to prepare states, territories, and tribes to deliver an effective behavioral health response to disasters. The SAMHSA Behavioral Health Disaster Response Mobile App is designed to assist those responding to disasters ensure that resources are at responders’ fingertips. SAMHSA also provides a treatment locator and trains responders how to recognize and respond to symptoms of PTSD, depression, or severe reactions.