Mental Health After An Event

Six Phases of a Disaster

Pre-disaster phase:

  • Disasters with no warning can cause feelings of vulnerability and lack of security, fear of the future or fear of unpredicted tragedies, and a sense of loss of control or inability to protect oneself and family.
  • Disasters with warning can cause guilt or self-blame for failure to heed warnings.

Impact phase:

  • Impact reactions can range from shock to overt panic.
  • Slow, low-threat disasters and rapid, dangerous disasters have different psychological impacts.
  • Great destruction and loss leads to psychosocial effects.
  • Initial confusion and disbelief are followed by focus on self-preservation and family protection.
  • Family separation during impact causes considerable anxiety.

Heroic phase:

  • Many exhibit adrenaline-induced rescue behavior and have high activity with low productivity.
  • Risk assessment may be impaired, and there is a sense of altruism.
  • Evacuation and relocation have psychological significance: impact of physical hazards and impact of family separation.

Honeymoon phase:

  • Disaster assistance is readily available. Community bonding occurs. Optimism exists that everything will return to normal quickly.
  • Opportunities are available for a crisis team to gain entrée to impacted people and build relationships.

Disillusionment phase:

  • Physical exhaustion may surface, and optimism turns into discouragement.
  • Increased need for substance abuse services may begin to surface.
  • Reality of losses sets in. Diminishing assistance leads to feelings of abandonment. Stress and fatigue take a toll. The larger community returns to business as usual.
  • The crisis team may have increased demand for services, as individuals and communities begin to assume responsibility for rebuilding their lives.
  • People adjust to a new “normal,” while continuing to grieve losses. There is recognition of growth and opportunity.

Reconstruction phase:

  • The reconstruction process may continue for years. Individuals and communities begin to assume responsibility for rebuilding their lives.
  • People adjust to a new “normal,” while continuing to grieve losses. There is recognition of growth and opportunity.

It is important to note that the key to assisting those exposed to a disaster is to identify which of the six phases of a disaster a person is operating from at the time of an encounter. Not understanding these phases will decrease significantly the level of communication and trust one might otherwise establish. Additionally, at-risk-populations are particularly vulnerable.

At-Risk Populations

  • Children, youth, and adults with children
  • Older adults
  • People with prior trauma history
  • People with serious mental illnesses
  • People with disabilities
  • People with a history of substance abuse
  • Low-income groups
  • First responders and public safety workers

By utilizing the Phases of Disaster approach, all of us will be better equipped to help one another without the need for formal training in mental health, while at the same time dispelling the myths and rumors regarding mental illness. By doing so, we reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and are able to see those affected by a disaster as simply ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

After a trauma or life-threatening event, it is common to have upsetting memories of what happened, have trouble sleeping, feel jumpy, or lose interest in things you used to enjoy. For some people these reactions do not go away on their own; they may even get worse over time. These people may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Things to do for your Mental Health

Try these tips to keep your balance, or re-balance yourself.

  1. Value yourself:

Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument or come fluent in another language.

  1. Take care of your body:

Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:
Eat nutritious meals
Avoid smoking and vaping
Drink plenty of water
Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression

  1. Surround yourself with good people:

People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.

  1. Give yourself:

Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people.

  1. Learn how to deal with stress:

Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: Try One-Minute Stress Strategies, do Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.

  1. Quiet your mind:

Try meditating, Mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.

  1. Set realistic goals:

Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally, and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.

  1. Break up the monotony:

Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.

  1. Avoid alcohol and other drugs:

Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.

  1. Get help when you need it:

Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives. Contact your local Health Department for resources.

*Adapted from the National Mental Health Association/National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Ways to nurture yourself and reduce stress:

  • Laugh out loud
  • Listen to music
  • Fly a kite
  • Stretch
  • Be thankful
  • Read for fun
  • Daydream
  • Take a nap
  • Go rock climbing
  • Eat organic food
  • Canoe
  • Remember all the good things about yourself
  • Create a collage representing “The Real Me”
  • Write a poem
  • Reward yourself
  • Reflect on your successes
  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Learn yoga
  • Sing, draw, dance, sculpt – express yourself!
  • Forgive yourself or someone else
  • Walk in the Park
  • Plan a vacation
  • Play with fidget toys
  • Enjoy a long bubble bath
  • Get or give a massage
  • Go to a sporting event
  • Ice skate
  • Visit the Natural History Museum
  • Fingerpaint
  • Rake a pile of leaves and jump in
  • Play cards
  • Enjoy a concert
  • Plant flowers
  • Take a deep breath
  • Work a crossword puzzle
  • Play hide-and-seek
  • Tell someone you appreciate them
  • Turn off your phone
  • Bake goodies and share them with friends
  • Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Sister
  • Believe in yourself
  • Try on clothes in a favorite store
  • Look for 4-leaf clovers
  • Tell yourself the loving words you want to hear
  • Watch cartoons
  • Reflect on your values
  • Go camping
  • Soak in a hot tub
  • Go bowling
  • Play with toys
  • Paint your face blue and yellow or any colors
  • Watch your favorite TV show
  • Keep a journal
  • Paint Rocks
  • Paint a picture
  • Call a friend
  • People-watch
  • Go on a picnic
  • Become a volunteer
  • Have a pillow fight
  • Visit a Farmer’s Market
  • Play in the snow
  • Blow bubbles
  • Walk a dog
  • Watch a parade
  • Dance in the rain
  • Visit a favorite place
  • Walk by a seam or river
  • Visit a zoo or amusement park
  • Rollerblade
  • Ride a bike
  • Pamper yourself
  • Develop a hobby
  • Rent a costume
  • Treat yourself to ice cream
  • Watch a sunset
  • Visit a sick friend
  • Join a club or team
  • Make a nutritious meal
  • Plan play time
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Listen to the birds
  • Browse through funny cards
  • Be optimistic
  • Go sledding
  • Visit an elderly person
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Climb a tree
  • Stargaze
  • Play with a baby
  • Jump in a mud puddle
  • Play on a swing set
  • Sit outside on a sunny day
  • Create your own list of nurturing activities
  • Write a letter
  • Thank your mail carrier
  • Donate blood
  • Meditate
  • Go swimming
  • Test drive a car
  • Rearrange your room
  • Create something random
  • Jump rope
  • Get a favorite snack or dessert
  • Sing
  • Be present in the moment
  • Post affirmations and positive quotes where you will look at them often
  • Try something new
  • Give hugs