As the DRN has expanded, opportunities for psychologists to volunteer and work with other groups have also increased, and awareness of the necessity to address the mental health needs caused by disasters has grown:

  • The National Disaster Medical System, a formerly volunteer effort started in 1984, was brought under the direction of the federal government in 2001. NDMS teams provide medical care in areas affected by disaster, at the request of state governments. At least one psychologist or other mental health professional is assigned to each team to help with the adjustment needs of fellow team members responding to the disaster.

  • Psychologists can also volunteer with Community Emergency Response Teams, a program coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 1993 to build local expertise among community volunteers in disaster response.

  • Psychologists also belong to teams put together by the Medical Reserve Corps, a volunteer medical response overseen by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and organized in 2002 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

  • There are also opportunities for psychologists and other mental health professionals to volunteer with the relief organizations operated by religious groups, says James McGowan, special project manager for National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

—C. Munsey