Equipping Clergy and Faith Communities for Disasters

     Jamie Aten
     Assistant Professor of Psychology, The University of Southern Mississippi

     In a study conducted one year after                      mental health associations. Recommended
     Hurricane Katrina with African American                  books and readings on disaster and spiritual
     pastors in the Gulf Coast region, Aten and               issues with descriptions are also posted
     Topping (2008) found that clergy were                    which pastors and religious leaders may also
     interested in training and education                     find helpful. There is also a news section
     opportunities focusing on disaster mental                that highlights upcoming training events by
     health issues. Among the various delivery                the CDMHP and other local and national
     formats requested, clergy reported that there            training opportunities for faith leaders. A
     was a need for more online resources. Based              blog and newsletter are also posted; they
     on these findings, the Church Disaster                   allow the CDMHP and users of the website
     Mental Health Project (CDMHP) and                        to highlight relevant disaster mental health
     website was launched. The project was                    information and share their experiences and
     funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and                  lessons learned with others.
     Rand Gulf States Policy Institute.

     The website includes a number of disaster                Reference and further reading
     mental health resources, including over 60
     online power point trainings, with topics                Aten, J., & Topping, S. (2008).
     ranging from the role of the African                      Collaborating with African American
     American church following Hurricane                       churches to overcome minority disaster
     Katrina to disaster spiritual care.                       mental health disparities. In E.
     Approximately 40 full-length disaster                     Worthington Symposium Future of
     manuals on disaster issues, such as                       religion and spirituality in counseling
     organizing disaster volunteers and                        psychology, International Counseling
     developing church disaster preparedness                   Psychology Conference, Chicago, IL.
     plans, are also posted. Nearly 70 brief
     reference fact sheets have been collected                _________________________________
     that deal with a wide range of disaster
     related issues, like recognizing symptoms of             The author
     post-traumatic stress disorder. Disaster
     related professional links are also provided,            Jamie D. Aten, Ph.D., (Indiana State
     including links to local mental health                   University) is an Assistant Director for the
     professionals and agencies, disaster research            Katrina Research Center and Assistant
     centers, disaster relief agencies and                    Professor of Psychology at the University of
     organizations, faith-based disaster relief               Southern Mississippi. He is the co-editor of
     agencies, and state and national professional            Spirituality and the Therapeutic Process: A

56                     Applied Research in Economic Development, vol. 5, issue 2, October 2008
Comprehensive Resource from Intake
through Termination, and forthcoming titles
Spiritually Oriented Interventions for
Counseling and Psychotherapy and Culture
and the Therapeutic Process: A Guide for
Clinicians. His current research focuses on
African-American faith communities
affected by Hurricane Katrina, which is
being supported by grants from the
Mississippi Minority Institute for
Improvement of Geographic Health, Pew
Charitable Trusts and Rand Gulf States
Policy Institute, Red Cross and Foundation
for the Mid-South, and United Jewish
Communities. He serves as the
Representative to the American
Psychological Association Committee on
Early Career Psychologists for the
Psychology of Religion and editor of the
Psychology of Religion Newsletter.
  • 601 266 6246
  • Jamie.Aten@usm.edu

                Applied Research in Economic Development, vol. 5, issue 2, October 2008   57

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