Disaster Mental Health
disaster can be large or small and can occur with or without
warning. No one who lives through a disaster is untouched by
the experience. Disasters can threaten our sense of control
and safety and can affect many aspects of our lives. The
emotional effects from potential losses associated with disasters
can cause unusual stress as people begin to rebuild their lives.
Just as it can take months to rebuild damaged buildings, it takes
time to grieve loss and rebuild lives.
This distress is often a normal reaction to an abnormal or unusual
situation. Not everyone will have an emotional reaction to an
event, and those who do will react in their own unique way.
Some common emotional reactions may include recurring dreams,
nightmares, digestive problems, anxiety, guilt, anger, isolation,
headaches, fatigue, distrust in others, and muscle tension.
Children are especially vulnerable both during and after a disaster.
Younger children may become clingy with parents, scared to sleep
alone or show aggressive behaviors at home or school. Older
youth may have delinquent behaviors, defiance, social withdraw or
decline in school performances. Children, as well as adults,
need to express themselves. It is important to encourage all
survivors to talk about their experience. Provide time for
closeness, monitor media exposure to disaster trauma, maintain
routines as much as possible, spend time with family and friends,
Involve children in preparation of family emergency kits and home
drills, encourage exercise and physical activities and set gentle
but firm limits for acting out behaviors.
The Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Behavioral
Health and Health Facilities, Office of Consumer Affairs and
Community Outreach houses the behavioral health disaster program.
A diverse pool of behavioral health professionals and community
responders provide emotional and/or social needs support to the
individuals and communities impacted by disasters or emergencies.
For further information on disaster behavioral health, please
The following numbers are
provided for additional support:
WV Disaster Hotline
Problem Gamblers Hotline
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