FEMA Grant Supports Crisis Counseling Coping with Emotional Stress After a Disaster

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Release date: 
July 25, 2002
Release Number: 
1421-27

Denver, CO -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded the state of Colorado $125,164 to provide crisis counseling for people affected by the wildfires that have burned in the state since April 23. The counseling is available to anyone who lives in the 56 counties and two Indian reservations declared eligible for federal assistance by the Presidential disaster declaration of June 19.

The grant was awarded to the Mental Health Services of the Colorado Department of Human Services to provide family therapy services as well as individual counseling and culturally appropriate supportive counseling.

"People in the declared areas have seen their lives severely affected by the wildfires," Federal Coordinating Officer Steve Emory said in approving funds to support the program. "Recovery needs extend beyond the physical and financial impacts. FEMA's role is to provide citizens with the basic necessities to rebuild their lives including counseling if necessary," said Emory.

The Mental Health Services is responsible for overall administration and implementation of the program, called Community Recovery Project, which provides crisis counseling and community education services.

According to mental health experts, the emotional consequences of disasters, such as the recent and on-going Colorado wildfires, can be far-reaching and long-lasting. Stress can surface in many forms and it often appears weeks or months after the traumatic event.

"Dealing with problems caused by the disaster wears on people," said State Coordinating Officer Tom Grier. "Keeping stress levels down as the recovery process continues is no easy task. We see more physical stress-related symptoms when people are exhausted."

Disaster victims are likely to experience at least one of several emotional responses: anger, confusion, disorientation, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, or increased alcohol or drug use.

"The emotional toll that disaster brings can sometimes be even more devastating to people than the financial strains of damage and loss to their home, business or personal property," Grier said.

Mental health experts suggest a number of ways to relieve the symptoms of emotional distress:

  • Talk about your feelings with family, friends and neighbors. Friends and family are good medicine and sharing common experiences helps people overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
  • Get back into daily routines as soon as you can and try to maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
  • Get some physical exercise every day.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to emotional stress after a disaster, including excessive fear of the dark, crying, fear of being alone and constant worry. Reassure children that they are safe. Encourage them to talk about their fears; emphasize that they are not responsible for what happened; and hold and hug them frequently.

If you or someone you know is suffering from signs of stress, you are encouraged to call the state crisis counseling Community Recovery Project at:

  • Pikes Peak Mental Health Center 719-572-6378
  • Colorado West Regional Mental Health 970-945-2583
  • Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network 303-795-6187
  • Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center Main: 970-259-2162
    (After 5 p.m. MDT: 970-247-5245)
  • West Central Mental Health Center 719-275-2351

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Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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