The mission of the Disaster Psychology Committee is to provide mental health support to disaster survivors and workers across the disaster continuum of preparedness, mitigation, response/recovery and promotion of resiliency.
A formal Statement of Understanding between the American Psychological Association and the American Red Cross in 1991 brought the SDPA into the nationwide Disaster Response Network (DRN). “Psychologists have since responded to some of the most devastating events in our nation, offering essential emotional support and helping those affected begin their recovery from the disaster. The growing network now lists more than 2,500 specially trained psychologists among its ranks.”
Through continuing education courses and seminars in the community, the Committee continues to educate mental health professionals, as well as the public, about how to care for themselves and others before, during and after disasters. In San Diego County, as in most counties in the country, the Committee members work through the American Red Cross chapter. Some Committee members are also members of the Medical Reserve Corp. Our members provide American Red Cross training to the Medical Reserve Corp members. An intensive training prepares licensed psychologists and other mental health professionals to respond to local, state and national disasters. As members of the DRN, our Committee members are also ready to provide mutual aid to other psychological associations throughout the state.
Local response “call-downs” through a communication tree occur on short notice but remain voluntary. Committee volunteers, who are also volunteers of the American Red Cross, also respond by being on-call for one week every six months. While on-call, their services may be requested at fires, SWAT actions or other local disasters where American Red Cross Disaster Action Teams respond. Committee members also participate in disaster drills, provide in-service trainings, serve on county-wide committees on topics ranging from access and functional needs to planning for specific disasters, instruct in disaster courses, and serve as subject matter experts on local, state and national committees. Some members train and will respond to Mass Casualty events, such as plane, train or light rail incidents. Others provide services to the Armed Forces through courses and facilitated groups on a variety of subjects.
If you are interested in joining the Disaster Psychology Committee or for more information, please contact the Committee Chair. We welcome student members. Student members may not be eligible for some responses that require licensed professionals, but there are courses, drills and some local responses where they can become members of a Disaster Action Team and gain valuable experience while assisting disaster victims.
For More Information:
For assistance in recognizing disaster related stress in adults, click here.
For assistance in recognizing disaster related stress in children, click here.
Articles about Disaster Response that have appeared in The San Diego Psychologist Newsletters:
A few of the numerous APA help center articles:
The Road to Resilience http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx
Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Disasters and other Traumatic Events http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx
What do Psychologists do at Disaster Sites? http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/disaster-site.aspx