Managing emergencies in general practice

Part C – Mental health in emergencies

Psychological preparation for an emergency

Last revised: 13 Dec 2019

While some disasters occur seasonally, such as floods and bushfires, other disasters, such as earthquakes, are less predictable. While governments and disaster response agencies often start to prepare for disasters in anticipation of the disaster season, less thought may be given to what people can do to psychologically prepare for a disaster.

Being both physically and psychologically prepared for a disaster is of paramount importance. Understanding what people can do to psychologically prepare for a disaster and what they can do to cope during and after a disaster can make a significant difference to those adversely affected. It is common and natural for people to experience depression and various problems with anxiety in a disaster.9 However, having a good understanding of what to expect during and after a disaster can assist in decreasing people’s anxiety levels. People who are psychologically prepared for a disaster are generally more confident and able to make effective decisions regarding their emergency management plans.10

It is good practice to consider what activities practice staff can undertake to ensure that that they are psychologically prepared for an emergency.

The Australian Red Cross, in collaboration with the Australian Psychological Society, has developed a framework outlining the appropriate steps to take to ensure psychological preparedness for an emergency (refer to Table 1).

 Psychological preparation for a disaster

Table 1.

Psychological preparation for a disaster

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