Spiritual Care in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters
Written by Lydia D’Ross, Ordained Minister and Outreach Chaplain for RENEWAL at Brookhaven Hospital
As a chaplain member of the Disaster Spiritual Care team, I know that many folks are unaware of the mental health services available. Environmental stress, like in the most recent disaster in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has affected the lives of many. Spiritual Care Chaplains not only serve families that were affected by the catastrophic event, but also those who serve as first responders.
The death toll rise compared to other disaster events in Louisiana, is at an all time high. Chaplains play a critical role in contacting the surviving loved ones. Humanitarian efforts in providing pastoral care and referrals to mental health services are one of many roles of the spiritual care chaplain assigned to a command post.
Chaplain are certified in disaster response, crisis response and obtain other training provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA]. Their role is an important one as chaplains not only offer prayer and support, but also act as the go between for collaborative agencies involved like FEMA. The American Red Cross recently activated an Emotional and Spiritual Care Division.
Many other organizations that have not incorporated spiritual care humanitarian efforts, are now becoming engaged in the process. All spiritual care chaplains that become involved in disaster response have several things in common. Chaplains provide impartial and neutral assistance to all victims, regardless of church affiliation or absence of faith.
One of the key roles of serving as a disaster relief spiritual care chaplain, is to recognize the need for emotional care referral to mental health services. These services are free to those who want temporary counseling. The mental health disaster liaison will then make a referral for ongoing counseling to their local community mental health provider, if additional counseling services are needed.
Many people have lost everything. They have no idea where they are going to live and even some have had to leave their home state. This can become quite overwhelming, stressful and even cause feelings of anger. Some of these symptoms can be treated with short term counseling. For others already facing mental health challenges, the additional stress of a disaster can be overwhelming.
If you have been affected by a disaster and feel overwhelmed or just want to talk to someone, we are here for you!