Dealing with Stress in Disasters: Building Psychological Resilience

Disasters and emergencies are emotionally charged events that occur with little, if any, warning. They can involve severe, life threatening situations; cause widespread disruptions that deny shelter, food, water, and medical care to vast segments of the population; and interfere with communication and transportation. Affected residents often experience confusion, fear, hopelessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, grief, shock, guilt, and shame. Local public health workers and emergency responders shoulder the responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of affected people; helping them to cope with these devastating situations; and re-establishing normal function. However, this responsibility can take a heavy toll on public health workers and emergency responders as well, particularly in emotionally charged situations with widespread turmoil.

The goal of this module is to train public health workers and emergency responders to identify and cope with stressful situations and to develop psychological resilience that will mitigate the emotional toll that emergencies and disasters take. Ideally, this will enable them to function more effectively.

Learning Objectives

  • After successfully completing this module, you will be able to:
  • Explain the biology and physiology of the stress response.
  • Identify the differences in body signals, feelings, thinking, and actions in a person undergoing normal stress versus intense stress.
  • Identify the three major types of stress as categorized either by severity or chronicity.
  • Recognize and describe your own stress response by completing at least one of the stress self-assessments.
  • Explain what compassion fatigue is and why care-giving professionals are susceptible to it.
  • Identify the symptoms of compassion fatigue.
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms and learn to implement them prior, during, and after activation to optimize positive outcomes.
  • Define what is meant by ‘resilience’ distinguish between resilience in individuals and groups.
  • Explain how psychological resilience can be achieved and maintained despite exposure to difficult conditions.
  • Define and formulate Psychological First Aid (PFA) techniques to reduce and mitigate the stress of emergency events.
  • Outline self-care techniques to reduce stress and promote an effective and timely response to emergency events.

Start Dealing with Stress in Disasters module now.

CD is available if you do not have high speed internet access to this online module.

To request a copy of this training on CD, please contact Jennifer Tsoi at

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