MU-Based Program Provides Tools for Educators Supporting Children Involved in Natural Disasters, Crises
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Recent flooding in Missouri turned deadly and left many homes and businesses submerged in overflowing rivers. Hundreds of people were evacuated as many of their homes were under water. Often, children are the most vulnerable in natural disasters and require assistance and support long after they are affected. The Disaster and Community Crisis Center (DCC) at the University of Missouri is developing tools that can help children and youth affected during this disaster as well as future events. Recently, the program released animated, online disaster preparedness videos that will aid teachers and counselors who work with school-aged children about staying calm, problem-solving and coping in emergencies and natural disasters.
DCC is primarily funded through a 4 year, $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. As a National Child Traumatic Stress Network member, DCC develops resources and products that address behavioral and mental health issues, resilience and coping skills — especially after a traumatic event such as a natural or human-caused disaster.
DCC collaborates with local and statewide partners, like the Ozark Center in Joplin, Mo., which DCC worked with to assess the long term needs in the community after a devastating tornado in 2011. A report of this assessment, “2011 Joplin, Missouri Tornado Experience, Mental Health Reactions, and Service Utilization: Cross-Sectional Assessments at Approximately 6 Months and 2.5 Years Post-Event” was published in PLOS Currents Disasters in 2015. Additionally, DCC has worked with the Children’s Advocacy Center in St. Louis to train Ferguson-Florissant and St. Louis teachers and counselors to use the Resilience and Coping Intervention following the community protests that occurred after the shooting of Michael Brown.
“Disasters and community crises can have significant impacts on children, families and communities,” said J. Brian Houston, associate professor of communication in the MU College of Arts and Science and co-director of the DCC. “Following disasters, many children and adults are resilient and can recover with natural supports like family and friends. At DCC, we develop products that can help foster this resilience.”
The new “Building Resilience with Hunter and Eve” videos are one of the many products and resources developed by DCC. The program also created a Disaster and Media Intervention (DMI) for school staff to use when discussing disaster and crisis media coverage with students.
Additionally, DCC has developed the Resilience and Coping Intervention that can be used by teachers, school counselors or social workers to help students discuss and cope with crises or ongoing shared problems.
Jennifer First, manager of the Disaster Mental Health Program at DCC, said her favorite DCC project involved partnering with the Boys and Girls Club and FunCity of Columbia, Mo., to explore photography and resilience with children.
“Our ‘Picturing Resilience Intervention’ resonates the most with me because it provides an opportunity for youth to voice their perspectives and experiences,” First said. “The center is finalizing an intervention manual for release in spring 2016.”
DCC also has collaborated with the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the University of Missouri to create resources for journalists and news organizations interested in fostering community disaster resilience. A fact sheet on community resilience and journalism has been developed and DCC has participated in RJI’s Trauma Journalism conference.
DCC also works with the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s Office of Disaster Services to staff the Pediatric Disaster Behavioral Health Work Group. Part of the Children and Youth in Disasters Committee, (a Subcommittee of the Access and Functional Needs within the Missouri Governor's Faith-Based and Community Services Partnership for Recovery), the group works to address the challenges encountered in treating children and youth involved in disasters and public health emergencies.