ters covered some of the behavioral health implications for local planners, this section goes deeper into mental health needs and manifestations in children during their recovery period. In addition to a focus on coping and post-disaster processing, there is also the presentation of a tool that schools and other organizations can use to monitor and triage mental health needs in their population.
David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, shared his list of key points for short-term mental health response for children. First, pediatric health care providers play a critical role in the mental health response to disaster. On a daily basis, pediatricians and other pediatric primary care providers are the de facto mental health providers for children in this country. Children are most likely to receive treatment from their primary care physicians for mental health disorders and psychosocial problems, which Schonfeld noted are actually the most common chronic conditions seen in pediatric practices. In the aftermath of a disaster, primary care providers are likely to be the first, and possibly the only responders to provide mental health services to children.
Adults who work with children should understand the likely reactions to disaster and know techniques to help them cope, Schonfeld continued. This includes psychoeducation and supportive services to accelerate the natural healing process. Different types of staff have different relationships with children and can offer different perspectives. As an example, Schonfeld noted that it was cafeteria workers who noticed that girls had been cutting themselves in reaction to a school shooting in which a classmate was killed. They could see this because the girls’ long sleeves would pull back as they reached out with their lunch trays to be served, revealing the cuts on their arms. Anyone who interacts with children after a disaster can be a potential source of assistance and support but, unfortunately, he said, if they are unprepared or insensitive, they can be a source of further distress.
Helping children necessarily includes helping their families and communities as well. For example, parents may need help to take care of themselves in order to be able to be more available to take care of their children. Helping children also means helping health care providers to fulfill their roles. Professional staff members have their own basic needs,