Dealing with Stress in Disasters: Building Psychological Resilience

Training Overview

Disasters and emergencies are emotionally-charged events that occur with little, if any, warning. They can result in severe life-threatening situations, prevent vast segments of the population access to shelter, food, water, and medical care, and interfere with communication and transportation. Those affected often experience feelings of confusion, fear, hopelessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, grief, shock, guilt, and shame. Local public health workers and emergency responders assume the responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of affected people, helping them cope with the devastating situation, 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. Public health workers and emergency responders should be able to identify and cope with stressful situations and build psychological resilience to mitigate the emotional toll that emergencies and disasters take on them.

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What you’ll learn

After completing this training, you will be able to:

  • Summarize the biology and physiology of the stress response and the effects on health
  • Recognize three major types of stress as categorized by severity and chronicity
  • Identify the types of compassion fatigue, risk factors, and coping strategies
  • List attributes of psychological resilience and individual coping strategies
  • Describe other types of resilience (group, family, community, cultural, organizational)
  • Discuss the goals of Psychological First Aid (PFA) and five components when caring for others

Subject Matter Experts

  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health


This training was supported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) with funds made available by the Cooperative Agreement Number TP921913, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.
This project is/was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UB6HP20150 “Public Health Training Center”. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.