The Institute originally published this post on June 18, 2013, on the ICTG Blog.
What happens when a community, a group, an organization, or a family is hurt? Social Relations theorists suggest that a group responds in similar patterns as a body or a person. Today, many of our community and faith-based bodies are hurting. Although it is not new to human experience, with the help of social media and mass media, we are more acutely aware of the long-term mental, emotional, and spiritual toll that traumatic events take. We see more clearly that disaster-torn towns and cities cannot be restored simply with hammers and nails.
For years, though, especially in North America, hammers and nails were the very definition of Long-Term Recovery. If you were engaged in Long-Term Recovery efforts, then you likely sat on a committee or volunteered with a short-term mission group or donated business assets in efforts to fix facility needs. For years, long-term mental, emotional, or spiritual needs were relegated to professional services, and salved by routine care practices that were singular and for the most part disconnected from one another beyond basic referrals. These practices may meet individual, family, or small group needs. Yet, when community-wide events occur, disaster relief experts are finding that efforts must be more coordinated across public services. Otherwise, towns and cities end up exhausting themselves by duplicating efforts, mis-communicating, and overlooking unmet mental, emotional, and spiritual care needs.
Best practices do exist and are emerging for more effective and efficient community-wide care. Law enforcement, emergency management, and therapeutic and social work agencies are making use of trauma-informed education. City and county VOAD (VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS ACTIVE IN DISASTER) groups are coordinating multi-profession communication. Faith leaders are becoming informed, actively involved in, or are leading community-care initiatives. As these kinds of care practices continue to take shape and gain momentum, communities will be skilled in responding to mass trauma events in ways that promote healing and growth.
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