State establishes disaster mental health resource portal for Hurricane Ian first responders

by | Oct 4, 2022


  • Florida officials have established a disaster response mental health portal for those on the front lines of Hurricane Ian cleanup and rescue service
  • The portal directs users to a variety of bilingual services and courses to connect with mental health professionals tailored for disaster response
  • According to the U.S Department of Health, it is common for individuals to show symptoms of emotional trauma following a large-scale disaster event

First Lady Casey DeSantis on Tuesday announced a Florida Division of Emergency Management website resource for Hurricane Ian first responders to help with mental health needs post-hurricane.

The site directs users to a variety of bilingual mental health resource hotlines including ones specifically tailored for disaster response. Further, hotlines have been made available specific to different lines of first responder work including firefighting, law enforcement, and medical responders.

A number of agencies have sent volunteers to southwest Florida from across both the state and nation to assist in disaster relief and storm damage cleanup. Necessary tasks have been fulfilled using volunteer service including the monitoring of supplies, search and rescue missions, and responding to 911 calls.

“I am proud of Florida’s First Responders and fortunate to have the opportunity to say thank you,” said First Lady DeSantis. “They have been on the front lines since the moment Hurricane Ian impacted Southwest Florida. They have rescued, comforted and strengthened great Floridians devastated by the hurricane, and I commend them for their dedication and courage. We know the ripple effect of a disaster goes beyond physical destruction to include grief and distress in a community, and those serving on the front lines of Florida’s communities have the full support from our state, including the mental health aspects of recovery.”

The portal additionally gives access to a series of training courses created to directly educate firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel about behavioral health issues such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and addictions, and firefighter suicides.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) also offers a free introductory course through the portal that provides an overview of common behavioral health problems that impact fire service personnel. In an attempt to expand course accessibility, it’s available for all responders, not just those belonging to IAFF.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, it’s common for individuals and families in and around the affected region to experience distress and anxiety about safety, health, and recovery. Previous exposure to large-scale events, such as a severe hurricane or flood, may place residents and responders who experience a new disaster at greater risk for adverse stress reactions.

Mental health symptoms experienced after a disaster-scale event may include emotional symptoms such as irritability or excessive sadness, cognitive dysfunction, physical symptoms such as headache, stomach pain, or difficulty breathing, behavioral reactions like alcohol consumption, or a failure to adhere to needed physical or psychiatric medication needs.

DeSantis on Tuesday also stated that the Florida Disaster Fund, a private fund established to provide financial assistance to communities in times of emergency or disaster, has raised over $21 million in the first 48 hours of activation.

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