"PTSD Is Not Only a Veteran Thing"
Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and more fill the news on almost a daily basis. We are struck by how the victims of these natural disasters are affected but little attention is paid to those who respond to these events:
Volunteer Rescue Workers
Studies have concluded that PTSD not only affects those directly involved in a disaster but those who respond as well. These effects are particularly true for those whose job may involve encountering traumatic events on an almost regular basis such as police, fire or medical personnel. In the case of volunteer responders a natural disaster may have an even greater affect given the infrequency of exposure to such events.
No matter the type of profession proper training must be available for the responder and the family as well.
Many of the factors of responding to a disaster are similar to those of a military person being deployed. Anxiety, fear, facing a dangerous environment and being away from family are all present when being sent to a disaster area. The responder needs to be prepared mentally and physically for what they will be encountering.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has an excellent kit toolkit that arms disaster recovery workers with materials that aid in responding effectively to the general public during and after a disaster, and in dealing with workplace stress.
Additional support for families can be found in Tips for families of Returning Disaster Responders: Adjusting to Life at Home. Who We Serve has more resources available that you can use in dealing with PTSD and natural disasters.
Taking the steps to prepare in advance of a disaster means more than storing food and water; it means preparing our responders mentally.