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Understanding Disaster Stress and Telephone Support Crisis    Skills  ( Powerpoint)        ( Adobe)
Tips for Talking with Children & Youth After a Traumatic Event or Disaster  (a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publication)
A Guide for Managing Stress in Crisis Response Professions (a SAMHSA publication)
A Hurricane on Sesame Street - A Guide for Educators (a Sesame Street publication)
A Helping Families After an Emergency - A Guide for Providers (a Sesame Street publication)
Helping Children Cope in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
Resources for Talking to Children About Hurricane Sandy 

Super storm known as Sandy has devastated many New Jersey communities and wreaked havoc in people’s lives all along the East Coast.  More than 50 million Americans are coping with the aftermath of the storm.  The damage and destruction from coastal surges, power outages, and high winds has resulted in disruptions to school and work schedules, property destruction, and serious financial consequences.

No one who lives through a disaster is untouched by the experience.  Like other disasters, severe storms and flooding can result in emotional distress, as well as property damage.  Disasters can threaten our sense of control and safety, and can affect many aspects of our lives.  The emotional trauma caused by the storm and anxiety about what will happen next can complicate and impede recovery.  While protecting people and restoring safety, power, and property, is a priority in the wake of natural disasters, emotional coping also matters.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services - Disaster and Terrorism Branch, is coordinating statewide efforts to help individuals and communities manage the emotional impact of the storm.  Disaster Mental Health Teams are currently providing support in many shelters around the state and are mobilizing to assist and FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers over the coming days, weeks and months as needed.  In addition to providing face-to-face disaster crisis counseling, the Disaster and Terrorism Branch provides informational materials about coping, and partners with the Mental Health Association in New Jersey to offer assistance through a toll free Disaster Mental Health Helpline:  (877) 294-HELP (4357).  A TTY line is available for the deaf and hearing impaired at (877) 294-4356.

Many Ways to React… Many Ways to Cope

It is important to remember that there is no one correct way to react emotionally to storms and floods.  Not everyone reacts the same way, and in fact, you may react in a variety of different ways even in the course of the same day.  Each person gets through the emotional challenges of a disaster in their own time and on their own terms.

To help you manage emotions associated with the storm and flood, you should use the coping mechanisms that are familiar and comfortable for you.  Other ideas for coping are suggested below and can be discussed with counselors and other caregivers.

If you or someone that you know is having an acute emotional reaction that does not subside over the period of a few days, it may be best to seek the assistance of a medical or mental health professional.

Predicting and Preparing for Emotional Reactions

Not everyone will have an immediate or obvious emotional reaction to a disaster; those who do will react in their own unique way.  Some of the more typical emotional reactions may include:

•  Recurring dreams or nightmares about the event; 
•  Trouble concentrating or remembering things; 
•  Feeling numb, withdrawn or disconnected; 
•  Disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns; 
•  Having bursts of anger or intense irritability; 
•  Persistent physical symptoms (i.e., headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension, etc.); 
•  Being overprotective of your family’s safety; 
•  Avoiding reminders of the violent events or evacuation; 
•   Being tearful or crying for no apparent reason

For people returning home from a disaster-affected area, it is not uncommon to experience difficulty in “decompressing” and reintegrating back into the home and workplace.

What Helps…

Here are some useful suggestions for coping with the stress stemming from disasters and or traumatic events:

• Limit your exposure to graphic news stories;

Get accurate, timely information about the status of the situation from credible sources;
• Try to return to your normal daily routine;
• Exercise, eat well and rest; 
• Stay busy- physically and mentally;
• Communicate with friends, family and supporters;
• Use spirituality and your personal beliefs;

What Doesn’t Help...

There are several behaviors that can slow or complicate the emotional recovery process. These include:

•  Using drugs or alcohol to cope; 
•  Withdrawing from friends or family; 
•  Blaming others; 
•  Overeating or failing to eat; 
•  Withdrawing from pleasant activities; 
•  Working too much; 
•  Anger or violence; 

Staying Connected

The best source of assistance in dealing with the emotional consequences of a disaster is often found in each other.  If you are anxious about your experience, talk to someone you love or trust.  This may be a family member, friend, clergy member or teacher.  Just don’t keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself.

If you notice that a loved one, friend or co-worker’s behavior has substantially changed, reach out and ask them how they are doing.  Make some time to talk, when it is convenient for both of you, and follow up later on to see how they are doing.  Watching out for each other demonstrates that you care and it can be comforting to both of you.

For more information about the emotional impact of disasters and strategies and techniques for coping, please click on the link below to download the brochure, “Coping with the Emotional Consequences of Storms.”     

Click here for English                Click here for Spanish

New Jersey's Disaster Mental Health System

► Helping Children Cope with Disasters ( English or Japanese)
Coping with the Stress of Emergency Evacuation - Returning from Hostile Environments
Click here to go to the Disaster and Terrorism Branch H1N1 Resource Center

The New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) within the New Jersey Department of Human Services (NJDHS) is home to a specialized mental health Disaster and Terrorism Branch located within the Office of the Assistant Commissioner for Mental Health and Addiction Services. The DMHAS Director of the Disaster and Terrorism Branch is responsible for activating the state's mental health disaster response plan in coordination with the NJDHS Emergency Social Services Coordinator and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, during a declared disaster. Each New Jersey County also maintains a county-specific all hazards mental health disaster plan. During times of disaster, the county's plan can also be activated by the County Mental Health Administrator in coordination with the County Office of Emergency Management and in collaboration with the state partners.

Services Available

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services has over 120 contracted community mental health provider agencies. Over the past several years and especially since September 11, training for these mental health providers as well as private practitioners, has been consistently provided through federal grant programs. In fiscal year 2007 more than 3,500 people received training through DMHAS sponsored training programs. The Disaster and Terrorism Branch is home to a multi-disciplinary Training and Technical Assistance Group (TTAG) which has the capacity to provide on-demand training for mental health professionals in the wake of disaster to further increase the state's capacity to address the psychosocial needs of the community. The services available through the Disaster and Terrorism Branch include:

• Individual crisis counseling
• Psychological first aid
• Disaster-specific psycho-educational information
• Group crisis counseling
• Consultation and training
• Information and referral services
• Toll-free warm line services

The Disaster and Terrorism Branch maintains this website to share relevant information with the public and with mental health professionals, and publishes the e-newsletter, "New Jersey Crisis Counselor". The Branch works in close collaboration with public health, law enforcement, emergency management, and other professionals at the local, state and federal levels to coordinate mitigation, planning, response and recovery efforts. The Branch also actively promotes the participation of mental health professionals in drills, exercises, and ongoing professional development activities. For a more comprehensive overview of New Jersey's disaster mental health system, please click here to view a narrated presentation.

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