SAMHSA coordinates behavioral health resources to help responders and communities prepare, respond, and recover from disasters.
SAMHSA’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) prepares states, territories, federally recognized tribes, and local entities to plan for and deliver an effective behavioral health response to people affected by disasters. Services are free to disaster behavioral health professionals and first responders.
The SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) contains resource collections and toolkits pertinent to disaster-related behavioral health. Installments focus on specific populations, specific types of disasters, and other topics related to all-hazards disaster behavioral health preparedness and response.
SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746, is the first national hotline of behavioral health experts who provide year-round, free, and confidential disaster crisis counseling.
SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hour toll-free, confidential hotline, has helped more than 6 million people since its inception in January 2005. People from anywhere in the United States can call to be routed to the closest crisis center within the Lifeline’s network of more than 160 crisis centers.
To support those recovering from a disaster, the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP), administered by SAMHSA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides supplemental funding to states for short-term, solution-focused interventions with individuals and groups experiencing psychological or behavioral effects following a disaster. These interventions help disaster survivors understand their reactions and learn positive coping skills. The program works to minimize additional stress by identifying specific evidence-based coping strategies, providing emotional support, and encouraging community linkages in order to support each survivor in attaining a pre-disaster level of functioning. CCP uses an outreach model, including individual and group crisis counseling, public education, community networking, and assessments and referrals to reach those affected.
Funding is available through the Immediate Services Program grant, which provides funds for up to 60 days of services immediately following a Presidential disaster declaration. A Regular Services Program grant, which provides funds for up to an additional nine months is also available if the needs continue.
Information for Behavioral Health Responders
SAMHSA provides a Behavioral Health Disaster Response Mobile App through which users can easily access and share behavioral health resources updated in real-time, search for behavioral health care providers in the impacted area, review emergency preparedness materials, and send resources to colleagues.
Crisis response workers and managers—including first responders and workers in public health and behavioral health, construction, transportation, utilities, and volunteers—are unique in that they are repeatedly exposed to extraordinarily stressful events. SAMHSA’s Guide to Managing Stress in Crisis Response Professions – 2005 provides a framework for stress management strategies.
SAMHSA provides podcasts and webinars to support disaster behavioral health professionals in their preparedness planning.
SAMHSA’s Disaster Kit – 2011 offers disaster recovery workers a toolkit on mental health awareness. It includes materials for responding effectively to the general public during and after a disaster.
Materials for Self-Care and Stress Management provides resources for disaster responders to use in monitoring and protecting their own behavioral health and emotional wellbeing while responding to an emergency or disaster.
Help for Victims of Mass Violence
SAMHSA’s Mental Health Response to Mass Violence and Terrorism: A Training Manual – 2004 provides mental health and crime victim service providers with a resource for assisting terrorism and mass violence victims.
Disaster Response and Homelessness
SAMHSA provides disaster and emergency preparedness tips for homelessness service providers to address this vulnerability during an emergency or disaster. Find more behavioral health and homelessness resources. Also, learn more about homelessness and housing.
Specific Populations in a Disaster
Children and Youth
Children and youth can face emotional strains after a traumatic event. Disasters also may leave them with long-lasting harmful effects. SAMHSA provides Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A Guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers – 2012 on helping children and youth after a disaster or traumatic event. SAMHSA also provides the guide in Spanish.
SAMHSA’s Psychosocial Issues for Children and Adolescents in Disasters – 2000 discusses the essential information response workers need about the impact of disasters on individuals, how the trauma associated with such events impacts children, the unique world of children, and the diversity of family structures in which children reside.
SAMHSA’s Tips for College Students: After a Disaster or Other Trauma – 2013 discusses common reactions of survivors of disasters and other traumatic events and provides tips for coping. SAMHSA also provides tips in text-message shorthand -- 2013 for college students coping after a disaster or other traumatic event.
Psychosocial Issues for Older Adults in Disasters – 1999 provides disaster mental health and human service workers, service providers, program planners, administrators, care givers, and older adults with the tools and knowledge to appropriately respond to the needs of older adults in times of disaster.
For information on other populations, visit the Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) Resource Collections.