Dealing with mental health in a disaster

KING 5's Amity Addrisi reports.

When disaster strikes, people cope and grieve in different ways.  
 
Mental health is one of the several aspects focused on by disaster relief experts at the American Red Cross.  
 
Tom Delaney is a disaster mental health volunteer for the Red Cross who helps train people on psychological first aid.  
 
"It's very fundamental – people have to have safety, which is where the food and shelter come in," Delaney said. "But they also have to perceive that safety. … If they don't perceive it, they need further help to be able to evaluate the situation and cope with it."  
 
The Red Cross offers several levels of assistance but focuses on short-term and goal-focused mental health help. Delaney said assistance is needed in stressful situations because people usually are unable to continue leading the lives they did previously.  
 
Some key aspects of the assistance include realistic reassurance, structure, and returning to regular routines and activities. Red Cross volunteers also analyze people's reactions and risk factors to individual situations.  
 
"Children are a very particular concern, but they need to be–first of all—their world has been just as shattered as their parents' or people around them," Delaney said. "Put the structures back in place for them as quickly as possible."  
 
Mental health volunteers are available upon check-in at shelters, feeding stations, or at Red Cross registration desks in the case of emergencies. Otherwise, they can be called upon by any Red Cross volunteer. 

Join KING 5’s Disaster Preparedness Facebook group and learn how you and your community can get ready for when disaster strikes.

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