From the CEO

One of the many reasons I support the American Psychological Foundation is the organization’s ability to respond to emerging crises and issues. The foundation’s Visionary priorities provide funding for students and psychologists to conduct innovative research, projects and interventions that help people worldwide.

One of those priorities is a specific way to help people in emergencies, such as the earthquake in Haiti.

APF has a proud history of ensuring that victims of disasters receive the best psychology has to offer. APF not only supports the delivery of psychological services in times of catastrophe, but also seeks to fund scientific, research-based work that lays the groundwork for understanding and responding more thoughtfully in future disasters, healing those who suffer long after the disaster has occurred.

APF has a tremendously strong track record of supporting such work:

  • An APF grant enabled 44 child victims of the 2004 tsunami to attend a weeklong psychological rehabilitation in Thailand. Psychologists, mental health professional volunteers and local counselors created an empathetic and understanding environment where children participated in workshops to help them cope with stress-related symptoms and express their feelings. At the week’s end, “they had gained the energy to enjoy themselves as young people,” Yugoslavian psychologist Nila Kapor-Stanulovic, PhD, told the Monitor in 2005. She is an expert in delivering care and designing models like this one for children, often the most vulnerable in the wake of disasters.

  • Natalie Costa of the University of New Orleans used her $25,000 Koppitz fellowship from APF to investigate the impact Hurricane Katrina had on children’s anxiety. Because of her previous research with families in New Orleans, Ms. Costa had the unique opportunity to provide information on family functioning and mental health symptoms pre- and post- Hurricane Katrina.

  • Women who were pregnant and widowed during 9/11 could attend counseling sessions with their children at the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s 9/11 Mothers and Children Project. APF funded this project, which was the only one that provided a clinical intervention for treating the maternal needs of women who were pregnant when they lost their spouses on 9/11.

  • Long after a disaster, some people are paralyzed by their fear. Susan Opotow, PhD, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is using her APF grant to study how people cope with their increased sense of vulnerability years after a disaster so that psychological scientists, decision-makers, and practitioners will be able to know and address the issues that emerge over time.

  • We often don’t hear about the young children who were drafted to fight in war-scarred Sierra Leone — a trauma we can’t imagine. An APF grant to the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity allowed investigator Theresa Betancourt, PhD, to help these child soldiers through a pilot intervention that incorporated group counseling and rapid education to strengthen community supports and peer networks.

  • Emergency response personnel are often debriefed right after a disaster, but a grant from APF enabled the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center to examine whether postponing these debriefings is more effective in reducing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder in those who protect all of us after a disaster occurs.

These are, of course, just a sampling of the grants APF offered. I urge you to take a closer look at them by visiting the APF Web site. And of course, I hope you will consider making a donation to the foundation. Psychology is essential in the wake of disasters, and that is one of many things APF does for all of us. As we APF supporters say, APF’s work is ongoing, sometimes urgent, always important and forever growing.