DTAC Bulletin: Working With Children With Serious Emotional Disturbance During Disasters

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DTAC Bulletin

Working With Children With Serious Emotional Disturbance During Disasters

SAMHSA describes serious emotional disturbance (SED) in children and youth as “a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year, which resulted in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the child’s role or functioning in family, school, or community activities.” Estimates of prevalence of SED among U.S. children range from 6.8 to 11.5 percent.

An SED may worsen in children who experience a disaster or other traumatic event. Children without an SED may be more likely to develop a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, which may be worsened when they are simultaneously experiencing other hardships such as separation from a parent or closing of their school.

The following resources are for disaster behavioral health professionals who may work with children during the planning, response, or recovery phases of a disaster. These resources may help you to gain a better understanding of SED, how children may be affected by SED during disasters, and ways you can help a child who may be experiencing SED.

DSM-5 Changes: Implications for Child Serious Emotional Disturbance

This SAMHSA report provides a detailed overview of the definition of SED, as well as how revisions to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (DSM-5) have changed the classification and reporting of SED. It also covers the classifications of each child mental disorder and provides prevalence statistics. Disaster behavioral health professionals working with children can use this report to better understand SED and its classifications in relation to other mental disorders.

Behavioral Health Conditions in Children and Youth Exposed to Natural Disasters

In this issue of the Supplemental Research Bulletin, the SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) focuses on children’s reactions to natural disasters, including more severe mental disorders. It also presents behavioral health interventions designed to address the needs of all children following disasters. This resource can be used by disaster behavioral health professionals to learn about the range of reactions and disorders children may experience, as well as strategies, methodologies, and considerations for implementing post-disaster interventions for children.

The Emotional Impact of Disaster on Children and Families

This module developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics provides an in-depth overview of the emotional effects of disasters on children and adolescents based on a variety of factors. It also describes how to recognize more severe cases that may require a referral for additional mental health services. The module provides descriptions of specific interventions, and the strategies for the prevention and detection of mental health problems. This resource can be used by disaster behavioral health professionals who work with children and are involved in the planning of their post-disaster recovery. It is also available in Spanish.

Complex Trauma

This webpage from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network includes information on what complex trauma is and when a child may experience it. It also provides links to information and publications about the effects of complex trauma, screening tools and interventions, and other resources. The webpage can be used by parents, providers, and behavioral health professionals working with children.

PTSD in Children and Adolescents

This webpage from the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) includes information about the causes of PTSD in children. Other information includes how to recognize PTSD in children and the risk factors associated with PTSD in children. This webpage can be used by any behavioral health professional working with children.

Subscribe to The Dialogue

The Dialogue is a quarterly e-newsletter that provides practical and down-to-earth information for disaster behavioral health coordinators, local service providers, federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. You can subscribe to the newsletter or contact the SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) by email at dtac@samhsa.hhs.gov to contribute an article to an upcoming issue.

Questions About the SAMHSA DTAC Bulletin?

The SAMHSA DTAC Bulletin is a monthly newsletter used to share updates in the field, post upcoming activities, and highlight new resources. For more information, please contact:

Captain Erik Hierholzer 

Nikki D. Bellamy, Ph.D. 

The views, opinions, and content expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Reference in this email to any specific commercial products, process, service, manufacturer, or company does not constitute its endorsement or recommendation by SAMHSA. SAMHSA is not responsible for the contents of any "off-site" webpage referenced in this email.