Georgia Disaster Mental Health Site is Online

Friday, December 19, 2008

The University of West Georgia recently announced the launch of the newly developed Disaster Mental Health website for Georgia, www.georgiadisaster.info.

This website is a comprehensive disaster mental health website providing a wealth of information for the general public as well as specific constituencies such as persons with disabilities, military, educators and professional responders.

Georgiadisaster.info is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Human Resources using federal funds from the Community Health Preparedness Program, and was developed by the University of West Georgia.

The Georgia Disaster Mental Health website, designed and executed by West Georgia faculty, staff and graduate students, will undergo revisions and additions while being accessible to the public.

Also sponsored by the Georgia Division of Public Health and Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases, the far reaching site for residents is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation and addresses many of the stresses any kind of catastrophe can bring to an individual, a family or a community.

Dr. Larry Schor, associate professor of psychology, and Vicki Rogers, the service desk manager in Information Technology Services at UWG, worked with colleagues and students for more than two years to create the site.

“Common setbacks result from the chaos and confusion that occur when people are affected by disaster,” said Schor. “My experience as a disaster mental health counselor is that people really want the life they had before the disaster. The challenge is to find ways to begin to move forward.”

Schor said that people could go to the site and read about preparedness before a disaster and use the internal search to find topics such as recovery. The website is also available in Spanish and offers resources and information on how to cope and prepare for a disaster to the elderly, members of the military, persons with disabilities and public school systems.

The response from state agencies and the public has been positive and organizations in other states have requested information on how the site was developed. Rogers said it was quite an undertaking.

“As a technical consultant and webmaster, this was the largest project I’ve ever worked on,” said Rogers. “We have already begun to update the site. It’s a huge undertaking with a lot of information. Larry’s passion and expertise on the subject of disaster mental health makes this a very good site.”

Schor has assisted in mental health counseling after many disasters including in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

“I am optimistic that people will benefit from the website,” said Schor. “Although I think the challenge will be getting the word out and convincing people on the importance of being prepared. Just as we tend to think about changing our windshield wiper blades when it is raining, people tend to deal with disaster needs only when they are affected directly.”

The site also links to a wide range of organizations including the American Red Cross, Center for Disease Control and Georgia911.org, Georgia’s disaster and emergency website. For more information, go to www.georgiadisaster.info.