Events around the world continue to present challenges for first responders and mental health professionals. Natural and man-made disasters continue. Evidence mounts concerning potential events such as global warming and the effects this may have worldwide. Avian Flu remains a concern as do forms of biological terrorism and natural hazards such as tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. The 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and Thailand continues to have a significant impact on that area of the world. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to impact those countries, the Middle East and the United States. Preparing our communities and families not only for deployments and support of those deployed and their families, but also for the aftermath and return of our military and National Guard personnel into our communities is important for all.
What can we expect from all of these? How do communities and first responders handle these? What role does mental health play? How do first responders and mental health professionals plan together for responding to future events and learning from past ones. Using a strategic planning approach, how do we identity potential threats and identify target populations and groups? What resources are available for which identified threats? How do we do such planning, how often, and how do we exercise such plans prior to events? What can we learn from such events and how do we incorporate what we learn into future planning?
It is crucial that response, resilience, recovery and follow-up be included in our planning. Additional variables important in responding include cultural knowledge and sensitivity. We need to prepare to respond appropriately within a culture not our own, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.
November 8-10, 2007, the Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Institute held their Annual Disaster Mental Health Conference in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The theme of this conference was: "From Crisis To Recovery: Resilience and Strategic Planning for the Future."