Psychological Resilience and Disaster Management

In facing future scenarios that involve:

  • an increase in possibility of extreme weather and storms,
  • a critically transforming climate,
  • a money economy disrupted and threatening collapse,
  • an energy economy based on declining supplies of oil and other non-renewable fuels,
  • an observable diminishment of water and food resources,
  • a threat of pandemic disease occurring in an ever destabilizing social environment,
  • where the medical emergency establishment is understaffed–undercapitalized, unprepared, (see)
  • the possibilities of mass migrations in the first world countries mirror the horror in Darfur….

It is important that we increase individual and community resilience so that we may better function when they become a reality (whether gradual or sudden). Many governmental and community organizations and agencies are recognizing the need to establish preparation and training following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans where they were caught completely unprepared. The near miss of Hurricane Rita at the heels of Katrina threw the city of Houston and its surroundings into such panic and disorder that lives were unnecessarily lost.

Much has been written and spoken about need for preparing adequately for such future disasters. But of course there is much more to be prepared for in community crisis management than increasingly severe and more frequent storms in the climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse scenario. Richard Heinberg, author of “Peak Everything, Waking up to the Century of Declines” has written a call to arms in which he enumerates ways and means of building resilience in his Museletter article, “Resilient Communities: A Guide to Disaster Management” . Also see Transition Culture for additional community resilience ideas.

As a mental health professional, I must add that there is a need to increase individual and community resilience on the psychological-emotional level as well as on the organizational. Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is an established methodology for relieving symptoms of traumatic stress encountered during critical incidents and catastrophic situations. Stress management and debriefing are designed to increase individual and group resilience to trauma for those responding to emergency situations. The training is given to both mental health professionals and volunteer responders so that they may form a team which provides debriefing to those workers on duty at the scene. The interventions performed by the CISM team allow the responders to continue functioning both during the event and throughout its recovery period. The training naturally increases personal resilience for the CISM team members in such a way that their performance is enhanced when they are on active crisis response duty.

Psychological resilience training for the public in general as a preparation for dealing with disaster (both natural and other) would be greatly beneficial in decreasing the amount of traumatic stress people feel when facing critical future scenarios. Being prepared mentally and emotionally and having an emergency plan for different types of possible critical situations makes all the difference in the ability to control irrational panic responses that would further endanger them and their communities when clear thinking and quick action are necessary for survival.

I believe in considering these possible future scenarios it would serve us well to establish centers in our communities where the populace could be educated about these potential dangers and provided with reasonable and accurate information for preparation and planning. In these centers they could receive some training in CISM so that they are prepared to facilitate crisis management in their homes and neighborhoods. Educating people about life-changing possibilities occurring in the near future without giving them information and skills for dealing with them creates a critical level of stress and only serves to activate the natural response of psychological denial. Offering scenarios that are overwhelmingly outside their ability to control or manage tends to shut down their natural ability to seek solutions and act on them. Providing stress management tools and skills enhances their sense of personal safety and resilience.

Other survival skills could be taught in these centers. Embracing home and farm economics as well as nursing skills and practices our grandparents (great-grandparents for some of you) knew well but which have been lost in the fast pace of modern (post-modern and beyond) life, would be both beneficial and stress relieving. Having this kind of knowledge and ability is, in itself, a way of increasing resilience to critical future scenarios, be they energy depletion, pandemic, storm, or “doomer” dystopia.

I have written diaries here and here with my thoughts and suggestions as a mental health professional. The city of Houston actually has a mental health team for responding to disasters, but I would like to see them begin a program for public preparation.


  1. ChuckwKs says:

    Where to start? I could write a couple of chapters, if not a whole book
    on this subject. My background is that I am a certified contingency
    planner with well over 20 years full time experience in the field.
    These issues you mention have been looked at by some of my peers for
    several years, but with a sense of the problems being overwhelming. The
    main problem with doing contingency planning for something like peak
    oil, is that all disasters up until this one were incidents. That is
    they had a buildup to the actual event, and then a gradually decreasing
    curve as recovery efforts began, a distorted bell curve of sorts. Some
    incidents, such as earthquakes, have a buildup time of maybe a second or
    two before the actual destructive event takes place over maybe 1-2
    minutes, then a 2 or 3 year declining curve of recovery. A hurricane
    has a 2-3 day buildup to a 2-5 hour destructive event, and in the case
    of hurricane Katrina, a multi year, perhaps decade, recovery. The
    problem with peak oil for example, is that we have had a 10 year buildup to the
    actual problem, but it won’t be an incident, as the “disaster event”
    will last decades, and there will be no end point where we say we have
    recovered from peak oil. At best, we will be able to “make do” with
    the wreckage of that particular day.

    Disaster plans are predicated on being able to obtain resources from
    somewhere, or to relocate to somewhere to continue operation of critical
    functions. When we make plans, we look at the potential radius of
    effect of a scenario, to determine where we can stage supplies, or move
    operations to in order to support the critical functions. For a
    hurricane, that radius is somewhere around 50 miles, a tornado 4-5
    miles, and earthquake 25-50 miles, etc. With peak oil, that radius is
    the size of the earth. Think of what you would have to do to counsel
    someone remaining in New Orleans who was severely depressed because
    hurricane Katrina had been raging for 1000 days, and each day it was
    slightly getting stronger, and the end was nowhere in sight. I don’t
    even know where you would start. One comment I have heard from elderly
    giving advice, is live today to its fullest, tomorrow you may feel about
    the same, but you could feel a little bit worse, seldom better. I think
    peak oil will play out like that. For all of us having become very accustomed to
    our way of life, this will not be a happy situation. We will want
    someone to promise us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,
    and there will be those in power who promise that over and over to get
    us to keep them in power. Broken promises mean broken dreams and

    Are there things we could be doing now, personally and as a community to
    soften the blows that we will take? You bet. But they will not return
    us to the time of Camelot (today). The problem is with any ruling body
    wanting to stay in that position, to propose solutions such as more
    light rail public transit, less urban sprawl, more home gardens, solar
    or wind power supplements, will run counter to those who want more
    entertainment, more ways to keep doing what they are doing. That group
    will keep electing folks who promise them that, and not a subset of life
    they have today.

    The closest simulation I have seen to what is looming with peak oil, is
    some of the pandemic planning I have seen and researched. It has a 2-5
    week period prior to the event, which rages for 8-12 weeks, and then a
    2-3 month recovery period. In January 2006, Booz, Allen, Hamilton
    conducted a pandemic simulation with the UN body responsible for
    pandemic response. They chose Germany as their test subject, and
    brought in about 30 critical industry experts representing everything
    from transportation to communication, energy to food production,
    retailing to medical care. The results of their simulations were
    sobering to say the least. At day 28 of the simulation, basically all
    society functions had ceased operation. Surprisingly internet
    communications ceased around day 4 or 5. The internet is basically very
    resilient, but it is not necessarily robust. That is the problem with
    developing resilient communities, the amount of resources to make them
    resilient ($$) is one thing, making them both resilient and robust is another ($$$$$$).

    So do we sit in a corner with a blanket over our head waiting for this
    to play out? NO. We try to educate as many as possible to the coming
    event, even to the point of becoming the party bores. We try to warn as
    many as will listen, recognizing even some of our family will choose to
    ignore our warnings. And we prepare ourselves as much as possible to
    operate as our own little island of sanity.
    In disaster recovery we talk about the five S’s:
    Safety – Make sure everyone is safe from the initial event, evacuate,
    account for, etc.
    Stabilize – Stop further damage and deterioration as quickly as possible, put out the
    fire, cover the windows, etc.
    Survey – Determine extent of damage, what resources are lost forever,
    which ones may be recoverable.
    Secure – Prevent future damage or loss as much as possible.
    Sustain – Resume critical operations as soon as possible.
    Some variation of these may be a place to start with community
    resilience planning.

    Just like the Titanic, some will heed the initial warnings, and go to
    the boat deck wearing their life jackets, but most will want to stay on
    in the Grand Salon dancing and drinking, because the music is so
    relaxing, and it is so much fun. We just need to plant ourselves at our
    designated life boat and not be drawn off to other places.

    Sorry for the long post, but I can get wordy at times when I am on my

  2. I’m sorry you never got the chance to write that book. You clearly have much knowledge and experience in the area of contingency planning for catastrophic events. At the risk of bringing you to an Emily Latella moment, I must say that you must have either misread my diary or jumped to some conclusions of your own about the assumptions on which it was based. But it truly seems you leapt at the opportunity to get “on your soapbox” and spout out information you have been waiting for just the right moment to reveal.

    All very interesting and relevant, but not in recognition of the focus of my post. I grant you, I may not have written it as clearly as need be, or in as organized a manner as would have taken you more easily to my point. And, unfortunately this site may not have been the most appropriate for the audience to which it is directed. Still, I would have hoped those of you who write regularly here, lovingly known as “doomers”, would get my drift.

    If you looked into my links on building community resilience I know you didn’t find plans or suggestions that governments, agencies or communities should make detailed contingency plans for peak oil. Or for any of the combination of interacting variables affecting our future—that would be ludicrous even for someone unschooled in contingency planning. It stings a bit to realize you have found me so.

    Perhaps you were responding to my links to Richard Heinberg’s post on community resilience building or to the efforts being made by the transition culture movement. Posts and efforts of this kind serve the purpose of bringing the information forward and at the same time, offering something that people can do—something that gives them hope and empowers them to face a very uncertain future with resilience.

    I believe this is the same thing you were intending when you wrote:
    “try to educate as many as possible to the coming
    event, even to the point of becoming the party bores. We try to warn as
    many as will listen, recognizing even some of our family will choose to
    ignore our warnings. And we prepare ourselves as much as possible to
    operate as our own little island of sanity.
    In disaster recovery we talk about the five S’s:
    Safety – Make sure everyone is safe from the initial event, evacuate,
    account for, etc.
    Stabilize – Stop further damage and deterioration as quickly as possible, put out the
    fire, cover the windows, etc.
    Survey – Determine extent of damage, what resources are lost forever,
    which ones may be recoverable.
    Secure – Prevent future damage or loss as much as possible.
    Sustain – Resume critical operations as soon as possible.
    Some variation of these may be a place to start with community
    resilience planning.”

    I don’t see where your intent is different than Heinberg’s other than he is trying to reach a world-wide audience where you are making your outreach to a more specific audience and making your preparations as an individual rather than as a community. Other than this cyber-community, that is.

    As far as what I was suggesting—about the need to build psychological-emotional resilience for individuals through education about possible futures, building of survival skill, revival of skills in home and farm economics, home medical treatment, and stress management skills—I believe it fits for the long haul (if any should survive) even though there are any number of situations that may arise over the “1000 days or more”– Your statement: “think of what you would have to do to counsel someone remaining in New Orleans who was severely depressed because Hurricane Katrina had been raging for 1000 days, and each day it was slightly getting stronger, and the end was nowhere in sight”, was dismissive of me and what I presented in my post. It makes me wonder if you really read or tried to understand it, or if you just assumed I was another of the boobs you run into on a regular basis who is just not as well apprised of the true nature of the future we are facing as you are.

    Be clear, I can be more pessimistic and cynical than most—I can take a future scenario down into the darkest of places, I could move our little space ship of thought right onto the event horizon of the galactic center if you challenge me, but, I just don’t think you would be comfortable there. And so let’s not play the game of who is more aware or who’s got the most all-encompassing view of the future and the best personal belief system for coping with it. It serves no purpose for either of us or for the readers on this site.

    The gist of my post was to point out: “Educating people about life-changing possibilities occurring in the near future without giving them information and skills for dealing with them creates a critical level of stress and only serves to activate the natural response of psychological denial. Offering scenarios that are overwhelmingly outside their ability to control or manage tends to shut down their natural ability to seek solutions and act on them. Providing stress management tools and skills enhances their sense of personal safety and resilience.”

    I believe offering CISM as a public service is a means of educating individuals and groups of individuals about how to take care of themselves in uncertain and difficult times, how to manage and mitigate stress in such a way as would prevent further harm to them and others. I framed my goal within the language of disaster management because I believe most people in mainstream consciousness would accept its value. The centers (or programs) I suggested would offer in addition to stress management, valuable skill-building, empowering them to be independent of present day conveniences. Again, knowledge and skill builds psychological and emotional resilience to the debilitating stress of major life-changing conditions–(notice, not “events”). The gatherings would draw those people who were interested and not the crowd who choose to party like it’s 1999. The gatherings offer the people who come the opportunity for building camaraderie and perhaps a sense of group purpose—surviving and building a safe niche to weather the storm that will probably last the rest of theirs and their grandchildren’s lives.

    I’ve written before—many will die. But that doesn’t keep me from suggesting the best ways I know for staying sane through the passage.

    Something I wrote in a comment elsewhere regarding evolutionary systems theory:

    “We are in the midst of the chaos phase of a global systemic transformation process. Whereas we have been experiencing the change without awareness for a while, we are now being confronted consciously—mentally and emotionally—with the system’s collapse. We are forced to re-evaluate our basic understanding of the economy of life and our place in it.

    There will be, for some time, fluctuations of thought…different concepts about what is going on and how to prepare for it, how to best deal with it. Eventually these many minor fluctuations will become several strong conceptual frameworks charged with the passion of emotionally based beliefs. Then will come the struggle between these systems of belief about which will form the most viable structure for our new cultural economy (life ecosystem).

    The change is so enormous and so many variables are involved (climate change, cultural collapse-loss of social structure and order, mass population migration, scarcity of resources, etc.) that it is nigh impossible to predict a future scenario with any accuracy. It’s difficult to know which preparations will serve us when the Future emerges from the forces of chaos.

    But it is good to have skills and a group of others who will cooperate with us in a survival effort. Even if these changes aren’t imminent and don’t play out as we suspect, we will have, at least, revived some of the skills (farming, animal husbandry, tending, mending, cooking, preserving, spinning and weaving, etc.) that we can pass on to future generations who may need them for their survival.

    If you don’t believe this is really happening, just consider it a cool way to achieve some sense of peace and happiness with a hobby that brings a person closer to nature—to the eco-system from which we have sprung as a species and upon which we depend for flourishing in this earth.”

  3. Hi IHOV,

    I’ve enjoyed following the links you’ve offered here. It is a thought-provoking topic that I’ve mulled over for several days. It may well be that we are all quite ill-equip to manage the challenges that lay ahead, and therefore, our solutions will need to be diverse and redundant, as we hardly know which will work and which won’t, and which will work slightly, but in essential ways.

    Your interest in educational centers that teach basic skills is one of the ways to go, and I’ve tried a less structured approach in the form of individually offered by centrally organized, but regionally decentralized “101” courses that anyone can offer at low or no charge. All I need is a paragraph or two about what you’re willing to teach, and for how long, and I’ll (with the help of the Sustainability Group) advertise it, and find you a place to hold it, if you don’t have one. We’ve offered (my own offering…) Chickens 101, Three Simple Cheeses; Knitting 101; and Canning 101. While they were modestly attended, the format of having a way of teaching that requires no “seedling” money and immediate start-up, has its advantages.

    We’ve also started a “Sustainability” resource room, donated by a local market/deli, and community labor has put it together, donating books, films, and furniture. Musical “jams” that may appear unrelated to “sustainability,” create yet another “low tech” solution to bringing people together to foster community.

    I’ve also tried to use the resources of the local Historical Society to bring to life what’s still happening around here that is considered of “historic” relevance, like using a scythe, instead of a weed-whacker. It was quite an impressive demonstration to watch one guy with a scythe whack down (with minimal effort) a hillside of weeds in 7 minutes that would have taken much longer with modern equipment. He spoke of the history of the scythe, its continued development in Europe, and how he uses it today. But clearly, what stuck in people’s minds, was that demonstration. Most of us easily imagined how many times we’d be stopping that electric or fuel-driven “modern wonder” to it clean out, refill it, detangle the cord, or get more string out, after it was destroyed in the mess. Without any of that, he showed us that a world without all that was not only possible, be preferable, in this case.

    I’m mulling on the other points you raised: “offering scenarios that are overwhelmingly outside their ability to control or manage tends to shut down their natural ability to seek solutions and act on them. Providing stress management tools and skills enhances their sense of personal safety and resilience.” I’ll post on that after I give it some thought.

    Just a word about the response to Chuck’s comment, who I’ve never known to play games.. I hear Chuck telling you that HE’D be one of those folks, today, that could use CISM, because he’s facing a scenario (Peak Oil/Climate Change/Falling Dollar) that, as a contingency planner with considerable experience, HE’S not able to wrap his head around. His “job” is to prepare for any situation, effectively. I hear Chuck saying that he’s been hired as a lifeguard and he’s seeing a Tsunami coming! He’s been well-trained in his job, but, HOLY MOLY!

    Our job as psychotherapists is a different one than Chuck’s job as a contingency planner for corporations. His job is to look at mitigation. He’s the guy who’s paid the big bucks to figure out how to soften the blow, lessen the impact, think 20 steps ahead of everyone else, and keep the corporation going.

    He’s overwhelmed. What you might have considered “showing his doomer creds” may in fact be the Life-Guard literally “in over his head” when faced with the Tsunami’s approach. He’s telling you about his own emotional reality: “People want me to tell them how to plan for this one. They want me to give them the “Happy Chapter” at the end. But, Doc, I’ve looked at this six ways from Sunday, and I just can’t come up with one!” He’s telling you that HE doesn’t know where to start, and is trying to get a grip on where YOU would start to provide hope.

    It might be an interesting exercise to discuss how CISM (which I’d like to hear more about) could be used to “treat” this kind of “pre-crisis planning stress,” with guys like Chuck who are “walking point” for the rest of us. How can we offer hope and empowerment to the “Chuck’s” of the world? Any thoughts?

  4. ChuckwKs says:

    Thanks for all the posts. I took off my contingency planner hat and reread the original post(a couple of times!), and yes, I jumped over a bunch of the crucial points and drew conclusions from only a couple of places. My mistake. I can see how you would have been at odds with my response, I would have been also. You have indeed brought up some very crucial points, the need for education in needed skills will be crucial to the next step of this impending crisis. The more we can train in the basics of surviving without Wal Mart, HEB, and Home Depot, the better off we will be as a society. The mental construct necessary for that is out of my ball park, all I have been able to do is try to pass the warning to everyone that will hear. The closing of the energy age will strain all who provide services to the individual, be it health, food acquisition, transportation, infrastructure or otherwise. One of the most important resources we may need to tap is that of the historians, and as you say, revive some skills from days gone by. Even in the 66+ years I have been present on this planet, I look around and see what functions have disappeared just since I was a child, and wonder how I can find out the finer points of doing those things again.
    I had a personal experience with someone this week in a couples group we meet with weekly, who could certainly use the CISM exposure, after having witnessed a particularly violent murder Monday while at work. He appears to be classic post traumatic stress person, and we all encouraged him and his co-workers to get some professional help now. When we start dealing with the effects of all the oncoming “disasters”, we will see many people who will be in a form of shell shock from an unfolding slow motion disaster, and will need to encourage them to seek valid help also. I imagine each will think they are the only ones feeling this, and will have difficulty pin pointing what is the root of their feelings. We have been pretty protected in this country for a long long time from having to witness adversity up close and personal.

    Putting my contingency hat back on again, I can tell you one of hardest disasters to deal with is a slow motion disaster that unfolds over a period of time, being it several hours or several years. That is what I am seeing today with climate change, and peak everything. People keep on with business as usual, not wanting to take the steps to begin mitigation or protective steps until it is too late, hoping the problem is just a bump in the road. When I give presentations about some of the things we have facing us, I get the “tree full of owls” response, they just sit there looking a little dazed. As this slow motion disaster plays out we will need a lot of mental tools to develop the resilience all of us will need to cope with life. Your approach seems like a valid first step in that direction. My historical focus has been to basically recover function, while insuring individual safety in the first moments. What you are doing and I am doing is basically climbing up two different sides of the same mountain. Neither will be easy. And because this mountain has never been climbed before on either side, we will have to use all the tools we can find, and improvise as we go. Some paths will be blocked, and we will have to retreat to choose an alternate. We will suffer landslides, falling rock, scapes, cuts and bruises, along with fatigue. But upward we must go. Chuck

  5. Thanks for re-reading and reconsidering my post. I appreciate your taking the time and making the effort to comment again. I am clear that you see the big picture as well as acknowledging that mine and all professions will be struggling with the changes that have been ongoing and will continue to emerge in uncertain ways.

    I know that you, Kathy and most who come to this site are already well aware of what we are facing and have been finding your own ways to deal with the “blues” – the situational anxiety, depression, the stress. You all are making the personal mental and emotional adjustments necessary. After all, this site was developed to aid in that.

    My post was written to a different audience, one more mainstream and politically progressive and I added it to this site because I have interacted with you guys before and thought you might be interested in seeing what I’m putting out to the general public. It was never my intention to bring here any great revelation, or to suggest I had something to offer professionally that was unknown by the Peak Shrink.

    My frustration continues, though, because I can’t seem to make myself understood, and maybe it is because I am trying to cover a topic too broad (I am a big picture thinker) and because I am trying to speak to a general audience in my writings. Both these conditions result in a blending of ingredients which tends to dilute the meaning and muddy the mix.

    I believe one of the main contributors to traumatic stress (resulting in denial and ineffective strategies) is a feeling of powerlessness. The quality of psychological and emotional resilience, which appears to be “innate” in certain individuals, families or groups, has been found to be the best protection and best prevention for feeling powerless. Further investigation reveals that this quality of resilience can be built in individuals and groups by empowering them. Guiding and encouraging people to feel confidence in their competency and endurance in their capacity to help themselves–helping them build the skills they need for mastering the obstacles and limitations characteristic of their environment, makes them survivors. So, as a general rule, anything that can be done to build individual or group resilience will be quite valuable during times of great change whether incidental or incremental.

    As a contingency planner, I am sure you are very well aware of the fact that most contingency planning is based on mental preparation of the public. We know that people who have adjusted their attitudes in such a way as to see the present/future situation as being manageable and who feel they are competent to perform as necessary to achieve safety and security are best equipped to survive–whether in a critical incident or in the process of life.

    What I want to make clear to you and to the readers of this site is that I am suggesting a means of preparing the public with stress management skills and practices, not doing therapy with people following a critical event. In my work as a therapist, I have a number of methods for treatment of trauma and complex PTSD that are much more effective and appropriate than CISM. CISM is a structured method used by non-mental health emergency management “peer” teams for decompressing their fellow officers (firefighters, police, EMT, FEMA, U.S. Marshals, Coast Guard, etc.) following their response to a crisis situation. (There is always a credentialed mental health worker on each team.) The main point I’m trying to make here is that I believe the responders basic training in CISM and the continuing education in which they regularly participate helps prevent the development of severe and lasting symptoms of PTSD following their involvement in critical events.

    I also believe it helps them deal with the stress of daily life with their families and with peers on the job. You might consider that emergency responders commit to a lifetime of attending one traumatic event after another, a condition much like your scenario of—“a slow motion disaster that unfolds over a period of time, being it several hours or several years”. Many of the responders I trained with in March had been present in the events of 9/11 and were still working in the Katrina recovery process. Responders must develop a quality of resilience and endurance to sustain their well-being under such long-term conditions of critical stress. They are taught in CISM training to recognize symptoms that suggest they may need “real” therapy.

    I believe the general public could benefit similarly from basic training in CISM and participation in continuing education to keep up a certification (as with CPR and other first aid training). I believe this training offered as a public service could eventually become a successful intervention in countering public denial of critical climate change and peak oil. It would offer stress management tools that are helpful at all times, but are especially helpful during difficult times of change. I also see it as having potential as a tool for prevention of public panic and traumatic stress reactions during critical phases of this ongoing change. I can imagine that those who have gone for the training could be of significant help to their families and communities as we move forward into an uncertain future. (And just to be clear, I am not qualified to be a trainer of CISM, so I am not promoting myself, nor do I need a workshop venue.)

    I realize that I am presenting a suggestion that is geared to reaching the larger mainstream system where the readers and contributors on this site are focused more on personal survival and safety in a world whose underpinnings have been knocked undone. What I am writing really doesn’t apply to you and your personal needs. You are hunkering down, storing food, finding a way to live off the grid. I believe that is a wise thing to do in these conditions. I don’t have that opportunity right now, so I must make do with the situation I’m in.

    My concern is that even though you/we may prepare a stronghold of safety and supply as individuals and learn the more primitive skills of living without the benefit of the larger economy, we will still be greatly at risk to the breakdown of public services and public panic over lack of resources. Having to defend what you/we have built for ourselves from marauding crowds pouring out of the cities and from massive migrations of populations from locations where changes may have been earlier felt and more severe, and who are carrying untreated disease of pandemic proportion just makes me feel that the best preparation we can provide ourselves is to develop the inner strength, the resilience, and perhaps the unconditional self-love, the unbending human spirit, and the empathy for the human condition that may be required to sustain us or our progeny as survivors who eventually “arrive” in a very different future. Many of us will die, and we must be psychologically and emotionally prepared for that event as well. You are 66; I am 62 – our future survival as elders in such chaotic conditions of change as we expect is uncertain, perhaps unlikely.

    Framing the CISM training as disaster management was only a ploy for giving it recognition in the public domain. It was also a means for suggesting to those uninformed or in denial that they may make use of it as a means of building a sense of preparedness and resilience into our population. My hope is that with more of the general public practicing effective stress management within their families, communities, and places of employment and thus building psychological and emotional resilience, we might hope for their greater capacity to respond in a more functional manner to our changing physical and cultural environment.

    I am currently participating with a grassroots group of people who have been congregating to work on a new urban community farm. Participants are multicultural and represent the full spectrum of socio-economic conditions. The belief or hope of the initiators is that when times of worsening economic conditions become more severe, this farm will have served to build relationships between blacks, whites, Hispanics and others, relationships that reassure them they can trust and work together for survival. I believe this group could form the center for many other skills to be learned—some by daily practice on the farm, some by experiential learning, and some by special offering. This may be pie in the sky thinking on my part, but I believe it is worth presenting as a possibility.

    By the way, I think we are both on the same side of the mountain…

  6. Thanks for that elaboration, IHOV. I AM curious about what goes into CISM, and have benefited enormously from thinking about the issues you’ve raised. If you have any good links to direct the reader (like me) to read up in more detail about CISM, I’d appreciate it.

    There are so many skills that are needed by people in various life situations, and all approaches are are welcome. Truly, I think right now, we in the US are facing increasing financial hardship, and I’ve thought quite a bit about how to train my graduate students in counseling how to work with individuals (and themselves, first-off) on this issue. If any approach can lessen the stress and anxiety of working with large groups of people under hardship situations, I say “bring it on!” Our community is already going through a difficult process of having too many bills and too little income as both a community (tax revenue/town services) and as individuals (income/expenses) and this has created hostile town meetings. We are all going through it, as well as living our professional lives trying to impact it. Stress management is a welcome addition.

    Thank you again, for putting your thoughts out there, and for trying to reach out to a larger world.

  7. Being between a rock and a hard place, I’m squeezing in where I can just to feel I am engaged in the change rather than being thrown around by its interwoven currents. Thanks for the encouragement!

    I gave a link to the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in my post, but here’s another to a pdf file on that site describing the CISM model. As you will see, the wording of the model centers around stress management before, during, and after single “incidents” regardless of their endurance or size.

    My point has been that the training and its continuance is in itself a means of building resilience. I brought up training for the general public at the conference I attended in March and it was apparent from the response that this was being considered by those developing the curriculum.

    CISM description:

    Foundation web home page:

  8. This is a great post, Kathy. Yes, we are going to need lots of counselling as peak oil and global warming lead the world toward the unknown, mostly some kind of chaos.

    I have been thinking about polar cities for survivors of all this, in the year 2500, way down the road, mere speculation, and one of the issues is of course, the psychological reaction to my idea of polar cities! You should see some of the angry mail I get! Mostly, what I get is being ignored, off the radar, invisible.

    Wonder what is your take on polar cities, in that year of 2500? Can you see what I am up to and why I am doing this PR non threatening thought experiment to help prepare people for what is coming down THE ROAD?

    did you read THE ROAD yet? i am sure you did. OUCH, right? the movie will come out Nov. 26


    Tufts 1971

Speak Your Mind