HEALTH: Mental Health in a Catastrophe – Will You Fall apart?


  • By: Happy Camper
  • Posted on: March 10, 2014

Planning ahead

Preppers have secured themselves in the knowledge that they intend for themselves and their families to be safe in a catastrophic event. Do you have a bunker, a bug out location or a bug in plan? The food, medication and sanitation that you have prepared are all for the benefit of our physical well-being.

It is wonderful that preppers are so organized for the items that they will have in a post apocalyptic scenario. But how prepared mentally are we for the items and relationships that will be changed or gone?

The key to maintaining a healthy mental environment is being mindful and aware that mental health is a major factor in preparing, a major factor during a SHTF event and even more so the key to rebuilding and moving forward in a recovery are healthy relationships and a healthy attitude and positive mental health.

The brain

Our brains are the most complex part of our bodies, it is the control center of intelligence, movement, interpretation, decisions and behavior. The most powerful tool that we can take into any situation is our mental wellbeing. Knowing the basics about human reactions and mob behavior could be a huge advantage in a catastrophic event, to be able to understand and anticipate human behaviors and reactions.

Getting to know our own mental well-being and the mental well-being of those around us is important. Any type of psychological trauma can cause the brain to respond in ways that are not expected and are certainly not convenient, psychological trauma can provoke the brain to respond by impairing the functions of behavior, thought control emotions and reasoning. Mental distress can also cause physical effects, including: fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, aches and pains, racing heartbeat, concentration difficulties.

Keeping a balanced mental state is individual to each one of us. What makes you happy? What keeps your relationships moving forward and stress free? What do you need to maintain mental clarity? Make a list of these things, discuss with your family how these things may be able to be maintained in a SHTF situation. Discuss any concerns openly.

After the event

What can cause mental distress? Unstable environments, physical or mental abuse, sexual abuse, separation from a loved one, medical or illness trauma, domestic violence, bullying etc.
The immediate and long term effects of catastrophic events, particularly on children need to be considered. Studies that have been done on children from war torn areas show that around 40% of children develop long term PTSD.

Symptoms that a person is likely to display that will indicate that they are in mental distress, may be evident immediately or not show for a unset period of time. The most common symptoms (as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, AKA the DSM) are: being over emotional, fear, anxiety, depression, self-destructive behaviour and low self-esteem.

Imagine a scenario, that all of your physical preps have been successful. You have enough food to sustain you in the months ahead, any physical wounds are healing and you are feeling secure about the months ahead in regards to surviving. However you have no idea what to expect, your routine is unpredictable, nothing will be the same. Your children are asking you questions that you cant answer. Are you ready for that ? Or can anyone ever be ready for that ?

Is there any point to surviving physically if you and your family end up being mentally broken ?

All humans have needs that need to be fulfilled to maintain mental clarity and order. We need to be aware of our place in the hierarchy, we need to have a sense of independence and responsibility, we need to be mentally stimulated and maintain a mental strategy for the future, we need hope for the future and unity with our group / family or community.

Mental Preparedness suggestions

1. Is there a clear hierarchy and is each member aware of their place in the pack?
2. Each pack member needs to be confident and enjoy the tasks that they have been allocated.
3. A resolution strategy may be effective for group functioning.
4. There should be a basic reward system in place, this offers encouragement and pride.
5. Be aware of peoples mental limitations and phobias.
6. It is important to be aware of before, during and the aftermath, will each have is own set of issues and differences.
7. What personal and important items will be retained? Everyone needs comfort items and items that relate to our personal history.
8. Don’t undervalue anyone else’s personal items, they may have a particular sentimental value.
It is important to remember that some members of the group will get bored, be unwilling to participate or even become destructive (for example emotional children, teenagers or those who are mentally struggling).
9. Provisions for entertainment are very important, boredom can be very negative. The ability to play games for entertainment is invaluable and great for morale. Don’t forget to give compliments and appropriate physical contact (hand-shakes or hugs can be food for the soul)
10. Entertainment is individual and should be shared, adults taking time to play games with their children, reading together etc.
11. The acronym SAFE is used as a reminder for what people mentally need: Partially derived from ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs’

S: Safety and freedom from being harmed
A: Access to basic needs, of food, water, shelter
F: Family and connections to others
E: Education, self Esteem, and Economic security

Suggested reading topics on Google:

  • Maslow’s model of motivation,
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders AKA the DSM,
  • Mindfulness and meditation,
  • Pack behaviours / social hierarchy,
  • Herd or mob mentality

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Updated: March 12, 2014 — 12:22 am

The Author

Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 24th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural southern Wyoming, just below the continental divide (long story, that...). Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, many social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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