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Mental Health and Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are becoming more destructive and expensive due to climate change and population growth. Every year communities and individuals are being struck by disasters, which disrupts critical infrastructure, the economy and health. When disaster strikes, it can cause mental health disorders to victims and individuals affected by the disaster. Also let us not forget about first responders, healthcare workers, governmental employees, critical infrastructure workers, and volunteers responding to the disaster. These individuals sacrifice more than most of us will ever know.

There are two types of Disasters: Natural and Man-made. Natural Disasters are results of natural causes, for example hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms resulting in flooding, and winter weather. Man-made disasters are effects of human actions, including military conflicts, terrorism, political unrest and industrial accidents. Disasters may put victims in a state of complete loss or shock. Victims experiencing natural disasters face a loss of identity by losing their income resulting in job loss. Loss of resources, loss of one's own possessions, and loss of social support can result in causes of elevated levels of mental health disorders. These mental health disorders can result in severe stress, uncontrollable stress, and feelings of grief and sadness for a long period of time. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is significantly caused more by Man-made disasters, than natural disasters. Witnessing serious injury or death of someone or being displaced by the disaster further aggravate the individual’s symptoms. Substance dependency can also result from these causes.

Coping with mental health:

  • Take care of your body: Eat a healthy well-balanced meal, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
  • Stay connected: Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain a healthy relationship, and build a strong support system. Seek professional healthcare or counseling if needed.
  • Take breaks: Make time to unwind and remind yourself, strong feelings will fade away. Try deep breathing exercises. Continue to do activities you enjoy.
  • Stay informed: You may become more stressed or nervous, when you feel that you are missing information. Rumors during a crisis, especially on social media can result in additional stresses. Check with reliable sources and turn to your local government authorities for information.
  • Avoid too much exposure to news: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news. It can be upsetting to repeatedly hear about the crisis or seeing images. Try to return to a normal life as soon as possible.

Resources for assistance:


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish)


People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call


Some key take a ways, learn about the all-hazards approach. What hazards surround you? What hazards can cause injury to life and damage to property? We need to take the extra step in learning how individuals and communities can work together to improve preparedness and respond to disasters and emergencies.

Remember: Stay Informed, Make a Plan, and Build a Kit! Stay Safe and Healthy!


~Ralph Montes has experience in healthcare and hospital emergency preparedness before transitioning into public health emergency preparedness. He has responded to many types of real life disasters and emergency events, as well as planned events. He has planned and executed healthcare facility exercises as a subject-matter expert and continues to educate the citizens of Victoria in Public Health Emergency Preparedness.


“Taking Care of Your Emotional Health” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Disaster and Its Impact on Mental Health” A narrative review Nikunj Makwana

 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (