WIT Press

Best Practices For Psychological Support Of Communities After A Disaster


Free (open access)





Page Range

291 - 302




331 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


B. Selzler & D. Grandbois


Historically, the U.S. emergency response system has not provided psychological support to communities impacted by disaster. Instead, the traditional emergency response community focused on preparing for and ensuring the physical survival and safety of the individuals and communities that it protects. However, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, private and public agencies have enhanced the capacity to respond to the behavioral health impact of disasters both on the community and individual. The goal of all disaster intervention, whether physical or psychological in nature, is to restore the individual to his/her level of pre-disaster functioning. The purpose of this paper is to identify the best practices and evidence-based strategies used to restore communities to pre-existing disaster functional status. A review of the important insights gleaned from U.S. terrorist attacks and from post-Katrina findings reveal many states’ practices are limited to providing clinical services or psychological debriefing designed to directly mitigate or lessen the severity of the psychological impact on victims, responders, and nearby community members. Little attention has been paid to the broader psychological, social, functional, and behavioral issues that can impair recovery efforts for both individuals and the communities in which they reside. Helping communities become resilient and recover from devastation in a timely manner will improve the health of communities and decrease economic losses due to lost work time, health care visits, and use of substances to cope. Keywords: disaster, behavioral health, mental health, resilient communities.


disaster, behavioral health, mental health, resilient communities