Disaster Mental Health: Effects and Intervention


Disasters, both natural (tornado, hurricane, earthquake) and human-caused (chemical spill, terrorist attack, mass shooting), can have serious impacts on communities in terms of human, environmental (natural and built), and economic damage and destruction. Additionally, disasters can have a significant mental and behavioral health impact on individuals who experience the events directly or indirectly. This session will review current knowledge regarding these mental and behavioral health impacts and the factors that influence effects. Additionally, existing disaster mental health interventions will be reviewed and discussed.

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize the community mental and behavioral effects of disasters
  • Differentiate the patterns of disaster mental health effects based on event and individual characteristics
  • Compare existing disaster mental health interventions

Slides in PDF format



J. Brian Houston, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri and is Co-Director for the Disaster and Community Crisis Center (DCC) at the University of Missouri, a Category II center in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Houston’s research focuses on communication at all phases of disasters and on the mental health effects and political consequences of community crises. Recent and current research projects have examined the impact of media coverage of terrorism on children and adults, the role of new media during disasters, and the capacity for using information communication technologies to increase community resilience. These projects are located at the intersections of the literatures addressing disasters, communication, media, public health, mental health, and political socialization. Houston’s work has been supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

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