Each year Missourians are affected by disasters such as tornadoes, fires, floods, and power outages. You and your family's emotional preparedness are just as important as gathering items for an emergency supply kit or practicing emergency evacuations. Disasters can stir up many different feelings and thoughts and prior planning can help alleviate some of that stress and anxiety. It is a good idea to talk with your family about the type of emergencies you could face and what your response may be. Hold family tornado and fire drills so that everyone is familiar with what to do when disaster does strike. Individuals that practice responses to disaster situations will be able to react quicker with less stress when it does occur.

Emotional well-being and healing are just as important as rebuilding a home and mending physical injuries. You may be surprised at how you and others may feel after a disaster. Disasters can stir up many different feelings and thoughts. People may experience fear concerning their safety or that of a loved one, shock, disbelief, grief, anger and guilt. Memory problems, anxiety and depression are also possible after experiencing a disaster. These reactions are common and are usually temporary.

Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. Children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and individuals who do not speak English are especially at risk. Children may become afraid and some elderly people may seem disoriented at first. People with disabilities may require additional assistance. It is important that you talk with children and elderly people in a calm manner letting them know that they are safe and that you will help them find a safe place to stay.

When disaster strikes, a child's view of the world as a safe and predictable place is temporarily lost. Children become afraid that the event will happen again and that they or their family may be injured or killed. The damage, injuries and deaths that can result from an unexpected or uncontrollable event are difficult for most children to understand. A supportive response by a parent or other adult to a child following any traumatic event can help children recover more quickly and completely. Children of different ages react in different ways to trauma.

Some basic steps you can take to meet physical and emotional needs:

  • Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible.
  • Get rest, nutritional food, and drink plenty of water.
  • Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Recognize your own feelings. Reach out and accept help from others.
  • If you have not been greatly impacted, reach out and help others.
  • Do something you enjoy. Do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
  • Stay connected with your family and/or other support systems.
  • Realize that recovery can take time.

As you put your family’s emergency plan together, talk to your entire family about how you will respond to different emergency situations. Individuals that practice responses to disaster situations will be able to react quicker with less stress when it does occur. You will always feel better knowing that you are prepared and ready for anything.

For additional information related to disaster mental health, go to http://health.mo.gov/emergencies/ert/disastermh.php.