May is Mental Health Month
Mental Health America is promoting their yearly campaign to help people better manage stress and major life challenges by taking actions to preserve and strengthen their mental health.

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day – May 7th, 2009
Also called ‘Awareness Day,’ the focus is to increase public awareness about the importance of protecting and nurturing the mental health of young people.

The American Red Cross offers an educational tool called The Masters of Disaster® series to teach youth ages 5 – 14 the importance of preparedness while reducing fear of the unexpected. In addition to offering a section on hurricanes, this series includes three levels of activities in a section titled ‘In the Aftermath.’ As stated in the Background of this section, ”Young people are considered to be at the highest risk for emotional reactions and difficulties after a disaster.”


Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg founded the St. Bernard Project in March 2006 after volunteering in the St. Bernard Parish after Hurricane Katrina. The Project was founded in response to the many residents they met who were determined to move back home but lacked the financial resources to rebuild their homes. Since that time they have evolved into a thriving rebuilding organization that has helped over 120 families move back into their homes.

In addition, they started a partnership with the LSU Health Sciences Center, bringing several psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to St. Bernard. These professionals offer free mental health care to the survivors rebuilding their homes and their lives in the devastated Parish.

This program was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered in 2008, and was recently written up by Meg Farris, a reporter for WWL-TV Channel 4 News in New Orleans.

On January 19, 2009, the St. Bernard Project officially opened the Community Wellness and Mental Health Center in the same center as the Rebuilding Program, to give residents the benefit of “a one-stop shopping model that will minimize the stigma that is often associated with accessing mental health services.”


March 29, 2009
Ike’s subtle damage persists in minds, bodies

Columnist Laura Elder of the Galveston Daily News writes about the long-term damaging effects of Hurricane Ike on the local community.


The CDC has compiled mental health information to address a wide range of people and situations who have survived a disaster.


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) offers tips for students and colleges on how to minimize possible mental and emotional effects of trauma caused by destruction and loss of life during natural disasters like hurricanes.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) gives guidance on what community members can do to help children and adolescents cope with violence and disasters.

Featured Column

Protecting Our Natural Heritage and Our Communities from the Impacts of Hurricanes

Natural hazards, like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes are part of the natural world. Many people think of coastal storms as being inherently bad, although the forces that can damage communities also play an important role in regulating our climate, providing necessary rainfall, and maintaining the health of our barrier islands. Hurricane induced disasters occur when wind, floodwaters, lightning and storm surge cause physical, emotional and economic impacts.

One of the most effective ways to limit the damaging effects of hurricanes is to recognize the beneficial role that wetlands, floodplains and barrier islands play in protecting our communities. Efforts to maintain them in their natural state (or limit development in these areas) provide multiple benefits as areas prone to natural hazards are often environmentally sensitive and worthy of protection in their own right.

Building communities in known high hazard areas place people and property in harm’s way and damage or destroy the natural features that protect them. Intensive development can worsen a community’s vulnerability to natural hazards over time. The impervious surfaces associated with development, for example, speed rainfall runoff, leading to increased flood risk. Conversely, wetlands provide a natural buffer between land falling hurricanes and their associated storm surge. They also serve as a sponge, absorbing excess rainfall. If encroached upon by development, these natural functions are compromised.

What Can I Do?

There are a number of things you can do to protect your community. In most cases this requires being proactive – taking action before the next hurricane threatens.

One of the most effective ways to affect change is to become an advocate for the protection of natural areas that are also prone to flooding, coastal erosion and storm surge. Building a diverse coalition of support gives you greater political leverage to achieve your goals. First, you should identify partners with whom you share a common interest. Who in your community would want to protect the natural environment? Examples of stakeholders that you may want to contact include:

    •Recreational groups
    •Travel and tourism organizations
    •Environmental groups (including land trusts)
    •Social justice groups
    •Farmland preservation groups
    •The seafood industry, including sport and commercial fishing interests
    •Local government officials
    •State and federal regulatory agencies

The examples presented below are intended to provide a series of actions that you may consider, while stimulating further ideas that best reflect local conditions. Choices may be influenced by the nature of strategic partnerships you are able to form or the unique set of skills and interests you possess. Actions may include:

• Working with elected officials, business leaders, school teachers, environmental groups and others to initiate an educational campaign that describes the connection between the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas and those subject to the damaging effects of natural hazards and disasters. This may involve including educational inserts in utility bills; working with the private sector to fund public service announcements; and incorporating natural hazards-related information into elementary, middle school, and high school curricula.

• Speaking at town council meetings, public hearings, and other gatherings in order to voice your opinion to elected officials about the importance of protecting natural areas prone to hazards.

• Getting involved in the local planning process provides a number of ways to initiate change.

    o Review existing local plans to see if they include policies tied to the protection of natural areas prone to coastal hazards. Local plans worthy of review include:
    •Hazard Mitigation Plan
    •Comprehensive Land Use Plan
    •Coastal Area Management Act Plan
    •Parks and Recreation Plan
    •Green Infrastructure Plan
    o If the plans noted above do not address the protection of natural areas, work to amend them. Be persistent. Agree to serve on subcommittees that address this topic or solicit the involvement of experts in the field.
    Take the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, for example. All states and local governments are required to develop a hazard mitigation plan in order to remain eligible for federal assistance following a presidentially-declared disaster. Check with your local emergency management official for more information. If the plan does not address this topic, you may consider participating in future plan updates.

    o Check with your community’s land use planner for information on your comprehensive plan and how you can get more involved. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan is intended to guide future development and is therefore an important tool to limit future growth in areas subject to natural hazards.

    o Work with local, regional, state or national land trusts to identify and purchase flood hazard areas. Floodplains provide important wildlife habitat, represent a large percentage of farmland that is increasingly subject to development pressures, and serve as suitable recreational areas in many instances (including greenways, beach access points, parks and athletic fields). Strategic land purchases can achieve multiple purposes, including enhancements to your community’s “green infrastructure” plan, farmland preservation plan, and parks and recreation plan.

    o Coastal counties and their communities are required to develop a Coastal Management Plan per the Coastal Zone Management Act. Coastal management plans are intended to balance the protection of natural resources with economic development. Coastal plans also designate Areas of Environmental Concern that should be protected, if possible. Since much of the coastal economy is tied to tourism, protecting scenic and recreational areas provide multiple environmental, economic, and hazard risk reduction benefits.

Getting involved in your local community’s planning process represents one way to make a difference. There are many others. Figure what works best for you. The ability to affect change is only constrained by your imagination.

Gavin Smith, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Surviving Disaster deconstructs how the brain responds to life-or-death events—so that we can all learn to do better. The documentary includes many characters from my book, in addition to other survivors of all kinds of trauma, from tsunami to car crashes. One young survivor describes in unflinching detail exactly what it felt like to get out of a house fire as a little girl in Texas. It is the kind of story you will never forget once you see it, and it is told with a purpose—to help the rest of us become smarter and stronger in our own homes and communities." - Amanda Ripley, author of THE UNTHINKABLE, Who Survives When Disaster Strikes.

It's been just over five years since this revolutionary book was first published and we urge you to celebrate by buying a copy of THE UNTHINKABLE. It's essential mantra is ours : practice makes perfect where preparedness is concerned. Go to PBS.com to purchase the companion documentary that will change your life and perspective about emergency preparedness, based on the book by the insightfully, plain-spoken Amanda Ripley. Click here and buy it on AMAZON!


You may already know that our Owlie Skywarn is a severe weather prep hero! Now, THE YMP WEATHERFEST RALLIES are being held in cities all over the country, in cooperation with The National Weather Service, to help prepare the nation's kids as well as their parents and teachers for flash floods, climate change, storms and tornadoes, and more.

These events include appearances by OWLIE SKYWARN, the mascot and lots of participation by community first responders and other stakeholders! Go to www.youngmeteorologist.org/wrn for more information. And GO TO www.youngmeteorologist.org to PLAY THE GAME!


You can help protect low-income and disadvantaged families in Mexico and the U.S.!

PLAN!T NOW, in collaboration with Estes Mexico and other corporate partners, is working to provide life-saving weather survival kits--including water, storage-ready food, flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits and other critical supplies--and emergency family plans for residents in two severe-weather vulnerable towns in Mexico and the U.S.

Your tax-deductible donation today helps save lives tomorrow--give now.

For more information and the metric for this project, click here.