WSPA Disaster Relief Network (DRN)
Psychologists provide a variety of services during a disaster. Because of their training to help people cope with stress and strong emotions, psychologists are able to help disaster survivors, volunteers and disaster relief operation workers understand their emotions, such as anger, distress and grief.
Although psychologists do not offer therapy at disaster sites, they can help people build upon their own internal strengths to begin the process of recovering from the disaster. Click here to learn more about what psychologists do in disaster relief operations.
WSPA's DRN is lead by Debbie Shapiro, Psy.D. She works with trauma survivors and has a general private practice. She is a volunteer of the American Red Cross and has worked both locally on Disaster Action Teams and nationally. In 2017, she deployed to Houston to provide Disaster Mental Health services after Hurricane Harvey.
If you are interested in Disaster Mental Health and joining WSPA's DRN Team, you will need training by the Red Cross. Start by taking a free 30-minute Red Cross introductory course, "Disaster Mental Health: Introduction" to see if these activities may be for you.
Licensed psychologists are eligible to volunteer with the American Red Cross; their eligibility requirements for all mental health professionals can be found by clicking here.
Disaster Preparedness and Response, Resources and Information
Red Cross Support of Incoming Corona Virus
- Red Cross Media Statement on 2019 Novel Coronavirus
- Tips on how to stay healthy from the CDC
- Up-to-date info from the CDC on the Coronavirus
- National Library of Medicine's information on the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This section continues to be updated as new information becomes available.
- APA's tips to help you manage your anxiety, put news reports in perspective and maintain a positive outlook.
Information on the Puerto Rico Earthquakes
- To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
- You can find information about the Red Cross emergency app and using the safe and well website to connect with friends and family: www.safeandwell.org
- You can also find more information on the Red Cross Website here: Puerto Rico Helping People Cope with Disasters
- Puerto Rico Earthquake Situation Report #2 - January 10, 2020: Report from the International Medical Corp on the relief effort
Information for the Public
- Managing traumatic stress: After the hurricanes provides insight into how victims of disasters can understand their emotions and learn to cope.
- Tornadoes, Hurricanes and Children gives tips to parents and others who care for children to help alleviate the emotional consequences of natural disasters.
- Managing traumatic stress: Dealing with the hurricanes from afar offers tips to people who are witnessing the images of flooding and hurricane destruction from a distance.
- Recovering emotionally from disaster can help people better understand the overwhelming reactions and responses they may be having following the hurricane.
- "5 tips for coping with natural disaster stress": Video in English about how to deal with stress over natural disasters.
- "5 consejos para hacer frente al estrés debido a desastres naturales": Video in Spanish about how to deal with stress over natural disasters.
Recovering Emotionally From Disaster
Disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, transportation accidents or wildfires are typically unexpected, sudden and overwhelming. For many people, there are no outwardly visible signs of physical injury, but there can be nonetheless an emotional toll. It is common for people who have experienced disaster to have strong emotional reactions. Understanding responses to distressing events can help you cope effectively with your feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and help you along the path to recovery.
Building Resilience to Manage Indirect Exposure to Terror
Taking steps to build resilience, the ability to adapt well to unexpected changes and events, can help people manage distress and uncertainty. Many of these steps are essential ingredients for a healthy lifestyle, and adopting them can improve your overall emotional and physical well-being. After traumatic events, it is helpful to reach out to others and develop empathy. It can also be an opportunity to get information about these types of situations, and then to use the information to prepare for the future, make plans for responding and participate actively in the community.
How To Talk To Children About Difficult News
Children's lives are touched by trauma on a regular basis, no matter how much parents or teachers try to keep the "bad things" away. Instead of shielding children from the dangers, violence or tragedies around us, adults should talk to kids about what is happening.
The conversation may not seem easy, but taking a proactive stance, discussing difficult events in age-appropriate language can help a child feel safer and more secure.
As much as adults may try to avoid difficult topics, children often learn or know when something sad or scary happens. If adults dont talk to them about it, a child may overestimate what is wrong or misunderstand adults' silence. So, be the first to bring up the difficult topic. When parents tackle difficult conversations, they let their children know that they are available and supportive.