Essential workers require mental health and wellness resources in times of crisis

Sean Griffin
May 13, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Save lives and build resiliency by ensuring mental health is top of mind.  

After a year of 
record-breaking disasters and a sustained global pandemic, we must be open and honest about mental health challenges facing our colleagues, family, and friends during Mental Health Awareness MonthAt Disaster Tech, we’re taking measures to ensure employees have the resources they need to take care of themselves and their families. This includes designating a company-wide mental health dayas well as offering group workshops with wellness experts.  

Mental health checks and stress prevention are critical for emergency managers to stay well – especially when personal crises don't pause for real-life ones. To support this case, a recent report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) revealed employees felt departments didn't distribute work effectively and burnout was almost inevitable during the pandemic.  

Mental health and wellness benefits and services must be made now for emergency managers to recover from this pandemic and available to them for the next inevitable disaster.  Without the necessary resources afforded to our essential workforce, we will see people exit, and skilled workers will not come back, leaving experience and knowledge gaps in the next wave of disasters. 

Emergency management agencies and their partner organizations can take important steps to ensure that the front-line, essential workers have the resources necessary to stay well and alive. 
Changes that will have lasting impacts: 
Encourage employees and management to turn on dark mode and enforce breaks: Unfortunately, emergency managers overlook the impact of staring at screens all day without any breaks. The design of many disaster management systems fails to serve the needs of its workforce. Improvements to systems include adding a dark UI as teams are often working long hours, staring, and scrolling all day.  Automated system shutdowns and reminders to take a break are critical.  Employers are resorting to paying people to take time off, which may be required when people are working non-stop from home with no breaks. 

Prioritize and provide high-quality childcare for long-term sustainability: Institutions like the University of Delaware focus on studying children's mental health during disasters. The results only amplify our need for proper childcare. Essential workers are parents, and our industry must facilitate quality childcare and mental health services for both parents and children. These benefits provide an opportunity to maintain social cohesion during and after disasters. Childcare is a critical infrastructure. 

Create green spaces to help reduce stress: After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, one of the mitigation efforts was to create a green space. The purpose of this space provided those affected with an area to distance themselves from the crisis itself. Organizations who are currently evaluating their workspaces for the re-opening stage should consider bringing natural elements into the environment to break up employee's time in dark and gloomy situation rooms. 

Emergency management professionals continue to experience unprecedented times, in certain cases on the longest deployments and activations of their careersAt all times, not just in times of crisis, we must offer the necessary resources and programs to the most essential component of our organizations: our people. 


The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Learn more here: 

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