Mark and I took a C.E.R.T. class several years ago that talked about how to deal with mental health issues after a disaster. Now keep in mind, we are not doctors or involved in any medical field. The initials CERT stand for Community Emergency Respond Team, in other words, first responders in our neighborhood after a disaster.
I’m sure you can imagine what chaos may happen if and when we have a disaster. When we do have an unforeseen emergency, most medical personnel will more than likely be called to the hospital or medical clinics to deal with all the people injured. They may be called to go to local schools to care for those that are hurt, depending on how bad the disaster may be.
Here’s the deal, we had the most wonderful doctor come and tell us a few tidbits on how to deal with minor mental health issues. I can still picture the woman standing there and talking us through some statements that can help or traumatize people even more. I have outlined the topics we discussed below.
We need to be prepared for those people who live by us with mental health issues who are dependent on their medications. If the pharmacies are closed or the roads are shut down, where can we direct them to get help, if help is even available?
Emergency Preparedness Meetings
If you have monthly emergency preparedness neighborhood meetings please suggest that all families think about any medications they take to see if they can get extra inventory by paying cash for the prescriptions. I realize diabetes is a big issue as well, but today I’m only talking about mental health issues.
Some medications doctors will not give 90 days worth, I understand that, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. I realize some insurance companies will not pay for 90 days, but it’s still worth checking on now before we really need those medications. Yes, drugs are expensive, but peace of mind means everything to me.
I have a few friends that pay cash upfront for medications that will last a year so they know for sure they will have the medications throughout the year, and thus any disaster period, because they would die without them. It’s surprising how much cheaper prescriptions are if you pay cash over using your insurance. Sometimes the price is cheaper than the co-pay.
But don’t get me started on that soapbox. Please educate yourself, check around and see what the cash price is, you may be very surprised how much cheaper they may be compared to using your insurance plan. Of course, you have to get your doctor to agree to prescribe 90 days, 120 days or 12 months worth.
Mental Health Issues
Our CERT team or designated team members:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Balance work, play and get needed rest
- Be ready to receive help as well as give help
- Connect with the people in your neighborhood
- Use spiritual resources
We need to use the tools above to help others control their stress levels.
Seven phases after a disaster:
- Introductions and descriptions: we need to show confidence that we know what we’re doing when we talk to the people we work with after a disaster.
- Review with the group the factual material about the incident that has occurred.
- Share your initial thoughts/feelings about the incident.
- Share your emotional reactions to the incident.
- Review of the symptoms of stress experienced by the participants.
- Instructions about normal stress reactions.
- Closing and further needs assessment.
Provide support by:
- Listening to the people in your neighborhood about their feelings and their physical needs. Victims often need to talk about what they have been through, and they want someone to listen to them. Please don’t just brush them off.
- Empathizing, show by your responses that you hear their concerns. Victims want to know that someone else shares their feelings of pain and grief.
- Help family members connect to natural support systems, such as family, friends, and clergy.
Avoid these phrases:
- “I understand:” we cannot understand unless we have had the same experience.
- “Don’t feel bad:” The survivor has the right to feel bad and will need time to feel differently.
- “You’re strong/You’ll get through this:” many survivors do not feel strong and question if they will ever recover from the loss.
- “Don’t cry:” It’s okay to cry.
- “It’s God’s will:” giving religious meaning to an event to a person you do not know may anger or insult the person.
- “It could be worse” or “At least you still have….:” It’s up to the individual to decide whether things could be worse.
Children At Risk After A Disaster
We need to be prepared to deal with children after a disaster. Yes, it is a mental health issue. They may have anxiety, bad dreams, they may not be able to sleep, fear, they may be grumpy, sad, and anger may kick in. Sometimes, children do not know how to express how they feel.
This is why I keep this old TV that will play DVD’s if I use my Goal Zero Solar Generator. I can show movies to children, and adults as well. It’s only a 32-inch TV, but it will work great. If we stock up on some card games, board games, paper, and colored pencils that would be awesome. We will need everything we can pull out of our hat, so to speak, to keep the neighborhood as calm and stress-free that we can.
I must confess I have 10,000 straws ready to serve Kool-Aid or Tang to neighbors. Let’s hope my neighborhood can bring their own water, right? You know kids love straws and they will be great for the elderly as well. What are some things you have thought about when a calamity hits your neighborhood? I can make dollar pancakes that will surely make someone smile.
Here’s my play dough recipe that you can make: Play Dough by Linda
Names Are Critical
Leanne reminded me about using NAMES when talking to people after disasters. It’s calming to them.
Survivors that need more help:
- If survivors show evidence of being suicidal, psychotic, or unable to care for themselves, they should be referred to mental health professionals for support. (This will be infrequent in most groups of survivors.)
After taking this CERT class, it really made me aware of statements that are okay and not okay to say to people after a traumatic time in my friends’ lives. If we make a plan about mental health issues before a disaster, we will be more prepared to work through some hard moments. May God bless those who need to take charge in your neighborhood before the medical, fire department or emergency personnel show up to take the lead. May God bless this world, Linda