PTSD: National Center for PTSD
Resources for Providers: Responding to Disasters and Mass Violence
Resources for Providers: Responding to Disaster and Mass Violence
Following disaster or mass violence, initial intervention involves reducing primary distress and offering practical assistance. The resources below will help first responders and mental health providers learn skills in psychological first aid and appropriate response to such events.
For resources to share with clients, see our Resources for Survivors and the Public Following Disaster and Mass Violence page.
Key Information on Traumatic Stress Reactions
- Effects of Traumatic Stress after Mass Violence, Terror, or Disaster
It is important to help survivors recognize the normalcy of most stress reactions to disaster. Although stress reactions may seem extreme and cause distress, they generally do no become chronic problems.
- Phases of Traumatic Stress Reactions Following Disaster and Mass Violence
The impact of disaster and mass violence is often widespread. Prior research has shown that needs and reactions of individuals and communities change over time and can vary widely depending on the type of event. Learn about post-event phases, including impact, immediate, intermediate, and long-term.
- Mental Health Effects Following Disaster: Risk and Resilience Factors
Millions of people have been directly affected by disasters, and yet the vast majority of them recover due to the resilience of human nature. There are factors that indicate individuals who are more at risk for mental health problems following disaster as well as factors that increase resilience.
Response and Treatment
- Early Mental Health Intervention for Disasters
The aim of all disaster mental health management should be the humane, competent and compassionate care of all affected. The goal should be to prevent adverse health outcomes and to enhance the well-being of individuals and communities.
- Helping Survivors: Long-Term Treatment Interventions Following Disaster and Mass Violence
Immediately following a disaster or mass violence event, provision of practical support and psychosocial interventions are likely to be sufficient for the majority of those who are exhibiting mild to moderate distress or trouble functioning. In the months following a disaster, a smaller proportion of the population who exhibit more severe or protracted reactions may benefit from more intensive interventions.
Manuals, Tools and Tips
- The Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide
PFA is an evidence-informed modular approach for assisting people in the immediate aftermath of disaster to reduce initial distress and to foster short and long-term adaptive functioning. The guide, created jointly with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, is available in multiple languages and includes handouts for survivors. Online training and a YouTube PFA Channel are available.
- PFA Mobile App
Following disasters or emergencies, the PFA Mobile app can assist responders who provide Psychological First Aid (PFA) to adults, families, and children. Download from: iTunes (iOS) | Google Play (Android)
- Psychological First Aid Manual Adaptations and Versions
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network website offers translations of the PFA manual in Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Norwegian. This webpage also includes a number of adaptations of PFA for different settings and provider types, including: PFA for Schools; PFA for community religious professionals; PFA for Medical Reserve Corps personnel; and PFA for youth and families experiencing homelessness.
- Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) Guide
SPR aims to help survivors gain skills to manage distress and cope with post-disaster stress and adversity. SPR is intended to follow Psychological First Aid (PFA) in the weeks and months following disaster and mass violence events. The guide was created jointly with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network as well as others involved in disaster response; training information is available.
Helping Specific Populations
- Impact of Disaster on Older Adults
Following disaster, older adults may be at lesser risk for mental health problems because coping skills can develop over a lifetime. However, with chronological aging comes health decline and other risk that may leave older adults vulnerable. Read about risk and protective factors of aging following trauma and learn some strategies for working with older adults in the aftermath of disaster.
- Terrorist Attacks and Children
When terrorist attacks occur, children may witness or learn about these events by watching TV, talking with people at school, or hearing adults discuss the events. There are factors related to increased stress symptoms in children following terrorism and ways for parents and providers to help children cope.
- Disaster Rescue and Response Workers
Emergency and rescue workers who respond to disaster and mass violence events face physical danger, the potential loss of their coworkers and friends, and devastating effects on their communities. In addition, they may also be at risk for behavioral and emotional readjustment problems. Learn about risks and protective factors for distress among responders, and ways to manage work-related stress.
Links to Key Resources
- PTSD Consultation Program
The PTSD Consultation Program, which supports providers who are treating Veterans, is temporarily able to provide consultation to providers whose clients (Veteran or non-Veteran) were impacted by recent natural disasters or mass violence events. Please email PTSDconsult@va.gov or call 866-948-7880 for free consultation on resources, assessment, treatment, referral options, or any other questions related to helping your clients with the psychological effects of these events.
- Give an Hour
This organization works with mental health providers who volunteer their services to provide care and support to those affected by natural disasters or man-made traumas. Give an Hour also provides free mental health care to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families. Take action to give help.
- Disaster Relief: Web Resource Links
This page includes links to organizations helpful in the aftermath of disaster, including: Red Cross, FEMA, and more.