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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Resources for Survivors and the Public Following Disasters and Mass Violence

 

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This section is for Veterans, General Public, Family, & Friends

This section is for Veterans, General Public, Family, and Friends

Resources for Survivors and the Public Following Disaster and Mass Violence

Disaster and mass violence can lead to injury, death, and psychological distress. Media coverage of these events can also trigger reminders of past events.

This page links to information to help survivors and loves ones deal with stresses that can come from these types of events.

Providers please see our Resources for Providers: Responding to Disasters and Mass Violence page.

Key Information

Help for Survivors in the Aftermath of Disasters and Mass Violence
Disasters may cause a wide range of reactions in survivors. Most who are affected by disaster will recover on their own with some time and help. After a disaster, you are likely to do better if you feel - or are helped to feel - safe, connected to others, and serene or calm. If a survivor is still having trouble weeks after the disaster, he or she may need further assistance.

Self-Care After Disasters
Disasters affect people who experience and respond to the event. They may cause a number of different stress reactions in those affected. There are many steps you can take to manage stress after a disaster.

Tools to Help with Symptoms Following Trauma

PTSD Coach Mobile App
This mobile app designed to help with self-care for those with PTSD can also be helpful in the aftermath of a disaster. Use this app to track your level of distress and learn skills to cope with symptoms that commonly occur after trauma. Available in iOSLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site. and Google Play (Android).Link will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site. Also see the Canadian version (in French, iOS).Link will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.

PTSD Coach Online
This online resource offers 17 tools that can help you manage trauma reminders, sleep issues and other troubling symptoms following a disaster. PTSD Coach Online is available to anyone with access to the Internet.

PTSD Family Coach Mobile App
This mobile app is for family members of those living with someone who has PTSD. It offers tools that may be helpful in the aftermath of a disaster. Use this app to take care of yourself, strengthen your relationship with a loved one who experienced a disaster, and help your loved one get necessary care. Available in iOSLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.

Printable Handouts

Handouts for Disaster Survivors (PDF)
These handouts, from the Psychological First Aid Manual, cover topics helpful for those who have experienced a disaster. Handouts include:

  • Connecting with Others: Seeking Social Support (For adults and adolescents)
  • Connecting with Others: Giving Social Support (For adults and adolescents)
  • When Terrible Things Happen (For adults and adolescents)
  • Parent Tips for Helping Infants and Toddlers (For parents/caregivers)
  • Parent Tips for Helping Preschool-Age Children (For parents/caregivers)
  • Parent Tips for Helping School-Age Children (For parents/caregivers)
  • Parent Tips for Helping Adolescents (For parents/caregivers)
  • Tips for Adults (For adult survivors)
  • Basic Relaxation Techniques (For adults, adolescents and children)
  • Basic Relaxation Techniques (For adults, adolescents and children)

Learn More

Common Reactions to Trauma
After going through a trauma, survivors often say that their first feeling is relief to be alive. This may be followed by stress, fear, and anger. Trauma survivors may also find they are unable to stop thinking about what happened. Many survivors will show a high level of arousal, which causes them to react strongly to sounds and sights around them.

Effects of Disasters: Risk and Resilience Factors
A number of factors make it more likely that someone will have more severe or longer- lasting stress reactions after disasters. The amount of exposure to the disaster is highly related to risk of future mental health problems. At highest risk are those who go through the disaster themselves. Next are those in close contact with victims. At lower risk of lasting impact are those who only had indirect exposure.

Acts of Violence, Terrorism, or War: Triggers for Veterans
Describes how Veterans may respond to or be triggered by new acts of violence, terrorism, or war. Provides a list of tips to help Veterans cope with such events.

Community Violence: Effects on Children and Teens
Describes how neighborhood violence affects young people, and gives resources that can help.

Media Coverage of Traumatic Events
Learn how media (news, movies, etc.) can affect your stress level or harm children, and read about how to reduce bad effects.

Links to Key Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention LifelineLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.
    This national network of local crisis centers provides free and confidential emotional support to those in distress. Calls are answered 24/7: 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans Crisis Line
    This service connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders. Receive free, confidential support 24/7: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or text 838255.
  • Give an HourLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.
    Give an Hour 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.
  • Disaster Relief: Web Resource Links
    This page includes links to organizations helpful in the aftermath of disaster, including: Red Cross, FEMA, and more.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress NetworkLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.
    This Center works to improve access to care, treatment, and services for children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events.

For Providers and First Responders: More information and resources are located on our page Resources for Providers: Responding to Disasters and Mass Violence in the Professional section of our website.

Date this content was last updated is at the bottom of the page.

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PTSD Information Voice Mail:
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Contact Us: ncptsd@va.gov
Also see: VA Mental Health

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