Nancy Haugen, PhD specializes in 'Disaster Mental Health' created some 'Cliff's Notes' to keep in mind so that we can all be empowered to support mental health for those in pain. Disaster Mental Health
1. Whereas in the Emergency Room there is the Golden Hour (time to get to the ER when there has been a trauma), in Disaster Mental Health there is the Golden Month. There are 30 days from the point of the disaster, to make a major difference. Any intervention, support, kindness that can happen during those 30 days will change the long-term outcome. It is significant.
2. Given how the brain shuts down in a disaster, victims are not able to process words very well. They WILL track on tone of your voice and your body posture.
3. Don’t problem solve, most important task is to just LISTEN.
4. Sharing where resources are is important – if possible, give a written form of the list so that they can refer to it later. They won’t remember much if you just tell them.
5. Asking open ended questions (How can I help?) are not helpful because it asks too much of the victim’s brain to figure that out. Present two choices with yes or no answer (May I drop off food Friday or Saturday?)
6. After the fires are contained, and the media leaves (referred to as the Honeymoon period – “we’re going to make it! We’re going to stick together!), most victims experience depression. The research indicates that the depression will last for a while, so keep in mind that ongoing supportive gestures, any intervention, support, kindness, is still needed.
After the depression period lifts (can be as long as a couple years), people most often report that they feel that they have a new life.
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