In the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks in New York, Raymond F. Hanbury, PhD, was struck more by the silences than the noise — the hush that fell over people
when a victim’s body was recovered from Ground Zero or the
silence on ferry rides from New Jersey that carried people to the
site so they could commemorate lost loved ones.
“You could feel the tremendous sadness everyone had,”
says Hanbury, who is chief psychologist at the Jersey Shore
University Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey, and has
served after many disasters since Hurricane Andrew in 1991.
In the weeks that followed, he witnessed people’s grief,
shock, confusion and anger. He also saw resilience.
“Most people have a fairly good coping process,” he says,
though reactions vary widely. “The idea is to support them in
Hanbury is unusual in the amount of training he’s received
to help people in the wake of such crises. He is mental health
and public information officer for New Jersey’s team within
the National Disaster Medical System, he coordinates the New
Jersey Psychological Association’s Disaster Response Network,
he’s a Red Cross disaster mental health advisor for the state,
and he is a team leader with the state’s disaster response crisis
Still, he and others say, all psychologists can learn how to be
effective and have a role in the face of emergencies and disasters.
Whether you respond to the event by volunteering
your time and skills, or simply learn ways to protect your
important paperwork, computers and computer files
(see page 66), what’s key is understanding the basics of
preparedness, people’s varied responses to disasters, and the
interventions and strategies that work.
Mental health workers first began responding to disasters in
large numbers in the 1990s. At the time, they assumed that
people would be traumatized by the event and need mental
health intervention. To this end, they applied various structured
group interventions where responders, survivors and family
members of loved ones could share the cognitive and emotional
aspects of the incident.
Since then, psychologists have learned that many survivors
demonstrate resilience in the face of disasters. As a result,
today’s response teams — which include members of the APA
Disaster Response Network who work in conjunction with
BY TORI DEANGELIS
should know about
in the face of a disaster
takes training and know-
how. Here are some basics.