OHA marks the preparatory month with an emphasis on emotional health needs after disasters

SALEM, Oregon (KTVZ) – The Oregon Health Authority joins the National Prep Month observation in September with a special focus on community emotional health resources and building social connections as public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires persist .

Like many of its emergency management partners, OHA encourages the people of Oregon to begin or continue their emergency preparedness journey. OHA’s focus is on helping people prepare for their health needs during and after a disaster, including reminding people to review their plans and kits to ensure they are meeting the health and medical needs of their household will.

OHA recommends:

  • Families with young children consider essential items such as diapers, special items, or groceries.
  • People who need regular medical care such as dialysis discuss their facilities’ emergency plans.
  • People who use medical equipment plan to take it with them as part of their evacuation equipment and know how to replace it if the equipment is lost in a disaster.
  • At HealthOregon.org/preparedness, people can learn how to prepare for health needs during a disaster.

“The anniversary of the devastating forest fires that struck so many Oregonians last year falls in the month of preparation and in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Steve Allen, director of behavioral health at OHA. “People often experience heightened distress around the anniversary of a disaster event, so it is a good time to recognize and work on ourselves, our families, and the emotional health needs of our community along with our other preparatory activities.”

Allen says the prep month is a good time to empower parishioners to take action as they prepare for the next public health emergency. This preparation can dispel the fear of disaster.

“Kits and plans are a starting point, and what we put in can save lives and bring comfort too,” says Allen, noting that including some fun activities or toys for kids can make a difference. “When it comes to protecting our emotional health, sometimes it’s about healthy coping strategies.”

Some of these coping strategies include taking care of your body through sleep, exercise, and eating well; take lots of breaks to relax or fade strong emotions; stay informed and still avoid too many messages; and get help when needed.

Children and adolescents can be particularly vulnerable to stress during and after emergencies. Communities can support them by encouraging them to participate in their families’ preventive activities in an age-appropriate manner. After a disaster, adults can help children by encouraging them to share their thoughts, answer their questions, limit their exposure to media coverage of disasters, follow routines, and provide support when needed.

Emergency management experts across the country chose the topic “Honor with Deeds” for this year’s preparatory month. After the multitude of disasters over the past year, it fits well with OHA’s focus on mental health care and recovery.

“Our social connections are an important part of what makes us resilient,” says Allen. “The pandemic, along with the forest fire disaster, made it difficult to stay connected, but it is more important than ever to re-establish connections or create new ones. Take time to appreciate the losses of the past year by reaching out to loved ones and neighbors. Contact the survivors too and see what help they need. “

If you or someone you know thinks of harming themselves or needs help due to drug or alcohol use, call Lines for Life, a 24/7 emergency number at 800-273-8255. Lines for Life also provides specialist assistance to seniors, military personnel, youth and people facing racial equality issues. In addition, it offers special services as part of its COVID-19 and Oregon Wildfire Outreach programs. More information is available at www.linesforlife.org.

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