Guidance for Relief Workers and Others Traveling to Haiti for Earthquake Response

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

January 20, 2010

In This Article

Psychological/Emotional Difficulties

As a first responder or relief worker, you may encounter extremely stressful situations, such as witnessing a tremendous loss of life, serious injuries, missing and separated families, and destruction of whole areas. It is important to recognize that these experiences may cause you psychological or emotional difficulties.

Normal Reactions to a Disaster Event

  • Profound sadness, grief, and anger are common.

  • You may not want to leave the scene until the work is finished.

  • You will likely try to override stress and fatigue with dedication and commitment.

  • You may deny the need for rest and recovery time.

Ways to Help Manage Your Stress

  • Limit on-duty work time to no more than 12 hours per day.

  • Rotate work assignments between high stress and lower stress functions.

  • Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks and other energy foods.

  • Take frequent, brief breaks from the scene when you are able.

  • Keep an object of comfort with you such as a family photo, favorite music, or religious material.

  • Stay in touch with family and friends.

  • Pair up with another responder so that you can monitor one another's stress.

To learn about mental health resources, see:


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