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Covid-19 Primary Care Resources

Psychological responses to disasters

Guidance on the natural course of community recovery, and signs of compassion fatigue

This information is sourced from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

Charting the course of natural recovery

While each survivor experiences a disaster as an individual, they also experience it as part of a community

This webpage illustrates a community’s psychological response to disasters

  • Phase 1, the pre-disaster phase, is characterised by fear and uncertainty
  • Phase 2, the impact phase, is characterised by a range of intense emotional reactions
  • Phase 3, the heroic phase, is characterised by a high level of activity with a low level of productivity
  • Phase 4, the honeymoon phase, community bonding occurs. Optimism exists that everything will return to normal quickly
  • Phase 5, the disillusionment phase
  • Phase 6, the reconstruction phase

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue includes two elements:

  • Burnout is physical and mental exhaustion leading to reduced ability to cope with your environment. Burnout involves fatigue, frustration, a sense of helplessness, and reduced pleasure in work or other responsibilities
  • Secondary traumatic stress is the stress you may experience due to empathy with others who are going through trauma

SAMHSA advises healthcare workers that in order to care for others they need to take care of themselves first, and allow others to care for them. Their factsheet (see downloads) Tips for Healthcare Professionals: Coping with stress and compassion fatigue suggests strategies for self-care, stress management, and relaxation



SAMHSA coping with stress and compassion fatigue


Published: 17/06/2020