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Health Emergency Preparedness and Response: Responder Behavioral Health

Disasters often strike with little or no warning. In an instant your home, community, and sense of well-being can be damaged, destroyed, and forever changed.

Planning for, and responding to, your communities and first responders' behavioral health needs after a natural disaster is a vital part of emergency response.

Previous exposure to large scale events, such as a severe flood, may place residents and responders who experience a new disaster at greater risk for adverse stress reactions.

Seven hands stacked on top of one another

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Hotline

TTY for deaf/hearing impaired: 1-800-846-8517
or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Select one of the categories below to view topics related to the area.

Responding to an emergency situation can be both rewarding and taxing on individuals. First responders coming back from a prolonged deployment may face challenges adjusting to their normal routine. People may display symptoms and reactions such as:

  • Emotional symptoms, such as irritability or excessive sadness.
  • Cognitive dysfunction, such as difficulty making decisions or following directions.
  • Physical symptoms, such as headache, stomach pain, or difficulty breathing.
  • Behavioral reactions, such as consuming more alcohol or interpersonal conflict.
  • Failure to adhere to needed physical or psychiatric medication needs.

Self-Care Pocket Reference Guide for Emergency Response Deployment, P-01435 (PDF) - A guide for volunteer responders that includes pre- and post- deployment checklists and self-reflection activities. This resource was originally created for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health, and reprinted with their permission.

Homeless Service Provider Forum

Created to improve collaboration among service providers, Wisconsin's Homeless Provider Forum allows providers to share and discuss guidance, best practices, and evidence-based tools to bridge the gap between homeless service systems and human service and public health systems.

Stress, worry, and fear for your family and for yourself are common responses during and after a disaster or public health emergency. Pay attention as to how you and your family members are feeling. Children can have a more difficult time understanding what has happened after a disaster. It is important to talk to them after a disaster and help them process the emergency.

For more information

Division of Care and Treatment Services

American Red Cross

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Disaster Help Line

Last revised April 9, 2023