"Across the US, people of all ages are already coping with loneliness, illness, and financial concerns," says Schmidt, a Licensed Professional Counselor with expertise in trauma-specific treatment. Depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide rates are already rising. The frontline health workers have considerable risk of PTSD, and a percentage of patients will face depression and anxiety.
"Americans must be able to rely on our country's mental health providers to respond to their emotional needs," stress the co-authors of the newly published book Disaster Mental Health Community Planning. "If acute anxiety disorder is not treated with trauma-specific care within a month of occurrence, a large portion of individuals will develop PTSD."
The authors detail what people should expect from officials and community leaders: State governments and local communities must set up dedicated communication such as 24-7 emergency mental health lines and telemedical counseling sessions where trauma-informed providers can respond to rising fears and anxiety and offer a list of reputable practitioners for those who require additional treatment. These practitioners can also suggest anxiety-lowering activities such as yoga, meditation, exercise, BioLateral sound healing, and Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique).
"Those requiring care must be careful to only see trauma-informed practitioners," says Cohen. "More harm than good can come from seeking help from those without necessary training or listening to social media suggestions."
The authors started their book when seeing how nearly all communities have developed emergency medical plans for disaster response but not comparable ones for mental health long-term needs. Both Schmidt and Cohen provided support after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy and have regretfully seen the long-term mental health effects, similar to those faced by other communities that have experienced a shooting or natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado. Disaster Mental Health Community Planning provides a detailed road map on how community members can collaborate and develop a mental health preparedness plan to address immediate and long-term care psychological needs. Also covered are disaster types, new PTSD treatments and their impact on the brain, nationwide case studies, resilience, addressing needs of vulnerable populations and the latest research.
Schmidt has received numerous honors, including the American Counseling Association National Recognition Award and Samuel T. Gladding, Unsung Hero Award. He has been very much involved with Newtown Lion Club's fund for community[wide mental health services and continues to provide counseling services as a volunteer for local organizations including the Newtown Center for Support and Wellness.
A communication consultant for many years, Cohen began to focus more on her mental-health advocacy efforts following the Sandy Hook shooting. She developed community resources to raise mental health funds for the Lion's Club. When recognizing the critical need for mental health disaster planning, she asked Schmidt to be a co-author on their book. . .
"For too long, mental health has taken a backseat to medical health," conclude the authors. "It is imperative that everyone recognizes that medical and mental health needs go hand in hand and both, together, provide for total well-being."
More information on Disaster Mental Health Community Planning: A Manual for Trauma-Informed Collaboration, Routledge, is found on disastermentalhealthplan.com.