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Preparedness & Public Education: Response and Recovery Planning for Public Leaders and Spokespersons

Missouri Department of Mental Health Disaster Communications Guidebook

The public’s emotional well-being is impacted by messages that provide information about physical safety and promote the use of natural support systems such as families, friends and communities which include neighborhoods or faith-based groups. These mental health messages have a solid foundation in resilience. In keeping with psychological first aid principles, the key goals of these messages are to accomplish the following tasks:
Encourage adaptive and cooperative behavior that is consistent with individual and community safety;
Provide realistic reassurance through fact-based information that counteracts rumors and normalizes strong emotional reactions;
Reduce stress and promote self-care strategies for stress management and access to needed crisis counseling support; and
Increase emotional resilience for individuals and communities.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) created this disaster communications guidebook so that response agency spokespersons could integrate appropriate mental health messages into their efforts during an event or recovery. When utilizing these messages, consider:
Selecting applicable messages consistent with the chronology of the incident as illustrated in the Figure 1 below—a graphic representation of a community’s emotional response and recovery after a disaster event.
Giving people action steps helps reduce stress and promote community unity and confidence.
Using risk communication principles that engender trust and credibility with the audience.
Seeking partners and experts that increase credibility with target audiences.
Adapting messages into message maps for the incident.
Sharing the templates & message maps with public health and emergency management partners to promote consistency.


Preparedness Response and Recovery Planning for Public Leaders