Notes on Outreach

Mental health professionals

“Outreach” is one of the most important ways to provide support in the event of a disaster.  This includes going to the site and interviewing the victims or grasping the current situation and needs of the victims by telephone or letter.

Outreach includes setting up helplines, such as a telephone one, that can be accessed by victims in the early stages of a disaster. A helpline continued to play a major role in helping victims after the 2001 NY terrorist attacks.

When providing individual contacts, first introduce yourself and explain in detail what you can do to help.


“I’m 〇〇, is there anything I can do to help?” “I’m ○○. If I can be of help, let me know any time.”


How to reach out is important. You are expected to:

1. Be caring and comport yourself in a helpful manner

2. Understand the diverse needs of disaster victims

3. Provide consistent advice and general assistance

4. Provide techniques for linking their complaints to the appropriate support vehicles as needed

(e.g. linking telephone calls to individual visits, linking high-risk people to specialized treatment facilities, etc.)


You need to be well trained before you can properly provide outreach. If possible, it is also useful to receive supervision after support activities and to also have a chance to share other supporters’ experiences in an informal manner.


Supporting victims who have lost family members or relatives requires an understanding of loss and grief of the bereaved family and sufficient expertise in the complex procedures that the bereaved family must perform. Survivor supporters also need some familiarity with the condition of severely damaged bodies.


Losing a close relative in a disaster is so stressful that it can cause trauma. It is not easy to engage with victims in such a severe situation, but by first actively responding to the high-priority demands of the victims, it becomes easier to see the direction of support.


Especially in the early stages of recognizing that a family member may have been killed, various behaviors such as “expressionlessness”, “behaving as if nothing has happened”, and “bursting into tears” may occur. It is important to understand both the trauma and grief reactions of the bereaved family and to respond appropriately to the resilience and pathology of the victim without guessing about either one.



* This page was created with reference to the manuscript of “Loss and Grief; Disaster deaths, their implication and management”, specially provided by Dr. Beverley Raphael.