Psychologists respond to tornadoes and flooding

Psychologists provided disaster mental health services in relief operations across several southern states

By Public Relations Staff

May 26, 2011—The APA Disaster Response Network (DRN) helped the American Red Cross (ARC) fill disaster mental health volunteer positions for relief operations across several southern states, including Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee, in response to tornadoes and flooding in April and May.

Disaster Response Network More than 50 DRN members were mobilized to travel outside their state and even more worked locally to support chapter disaster relief operations. Psychologists helped by assessing and triaging distressed survivors, promoting resilience and coping skills, and intervening to mitigate problems and make referrals to community resources. Through their Red Cross chapters, DRN members in Colorado, New Hampshire and New Jersey have been contacting returning disaster responders to offer psychological support. 

At the request of ARC national headquarters, the DRN program recruited psychologists who are ARC disaster mental health instructors to participate in a training session to learn a revised and shorter version of ARC’s disaster mental health training. The sessions took place May 12 and May 19, and prepared instructors to provide more concise training to licensed mental health professionals volunteering for the first time on tornado and flood relief operations.

A dozen psychologists participated in these trainings and have been working with their chapters to reach out and train new volunteers. Both ARC and the DRN program anticipate that the training will prepare many new volunteers for current and future relief operations.

Some highlights of state DRN activities in April and May include:

  • Five Arkansas DRN members spent five days assisting residents affected by the Vilonia tornado that killed five people and damaged or destroyed over 130 homes. More than 75 people received disaster mental health support. 

  • In late April, the Arizona DRN program held an ARC disaster mental health training session in Phoenix. Participants from the training session have supported the tornado and flood response in the Southeast. 

  • Three Mississippi DRN members responded to tornadoes in the northern part of the state. 

  • Several North Carolina DRN members responded to the tornados in central North Carolina, and the program continues to send out communications updates and route calls for assistance and resources. 

  • The Virginia DRN program was involved in disaster response activities related to tornadoes in Gloucester, Virginia, by arranging support for families that lost a member. 

Since 1991, APA’s Disaster Response Network has helped psychologists and communities prepare for disaster and respond in times of need. At this year’s convention, APA will be honoring the 20th anniversary of the DRN program and the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with special programming. 

For additional information on APA activities in the wake of recent disasters, or to find out how you can join the DRN program, please visit the Disaster Response Network section at APA's website.