The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Emergency coordinator tells students plan must include mental health

By Selby Lopez/reporter

No matter where people live, disaster is always a daily possibility. That’s why instead of pretending it will never happen, it is best to have a plan.

This was the theme stressed time and time again by Cathy Stout, an emergency preparedness coordinator for Tarrant County Mental Health Mental Retardation in a Sept. 5 session on SE Campus.

Stout knows this firsthand because she used to be around disaster every day as a firefighter and paramedic.

“Most families do not have a prepared exit drill for a fire,” she said.

If families are not prepared for a fire, then they are most likely not prepared for a tornado or hurricane. By preparing for an emergency, the chances of survival increase significantly.

Although the main purpose of the speech was to help people prepare for a crisis or emergency, Stout also educated students about how to help victims recover psychologically from a crisis.

Whether from witnessing the death of loved ones or watching everything important in life being destroyed, a crisis can be hard on the mind, Stout said.

“Everybody acts and responds differently to a disaster based on their resiliency,” she said.

Disaster victims show three categorized responses. The first response shown is a mental health illness like post-traumatic stress disorder. Another possibility is a distress response, which can lead to paranoia and altered productivity.

The last response victims show is through their behavior in high stress environments. This particular response often brings the danger of substance abuse to avoid dealing with the problems at hand.

To help victims who have any of these responses, Stout believes that being a silent listener is the best approach.

“Silence is the best way to help with recovery,” she said. “You shouldn’t try and make them feel better. Just listen and allow them to let it all out.”

Stout said many victims never fully recover because they are forced to hold in all the stress, and that is when they can become self-destructive.

“What people tend to forget is that to suffer some amount of stress after a very traumatic event is normal,” she said. “And to a certain extent you must allow it to be let out.”

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