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Preparedness Tips for Individuals with Mental Health Impairments

If you or a loved one has a mental or psychiatric disorder, consider the following tips and best practices when developing an emergency plan to increase your personal preparedness.

1. Plan for Yourself & Your Family Members

Customized emergency kits with items specific to your needs: a list of prescribed medications, dosages and where you obtain them, a bedsheet or pop-up tent to minimize visual stimulation or for privacy.

Keep a list of key phrases on index cards for emergency personnel (e.g. “I have experienced mental health issues in the past:” or “I need my medications to maintain my independence”).

Build a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and coworkers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your specific needs and make sure everyone knows where you store your emergency kit.

Disasters can affect people in many ways—physically, emotionally and mentally. Know the signs, symptoms and common reactions to a disaster. Develop and discuss coping skills with your support network.

Write down the name and contact information of your primary care physician and/or mental health provider, and any other individuals you rely on for support.

Think about what a rescuer might need to know about your mental health and practice saying it clearly and briefly (e.g. “I have a psychiatric disorder and may become confused”).

2. Best Practices for Offering Assistance

A person with a mental or psychiatric disorder may need reassurance and support during times of stress. The person’s symptoms may be slightly or significantly pronounced.

Keep your communication simple, clear and brief. Ask or state one thing at a time to reduce confusion. Speak slowly and use a normal speaking voice.

A mental or psychiatric condition is often not revealed until the evacuation process gets underway. If a person does start to demonstrate unusual behavior, help him or her find a quiet spot away from the confusion.

If a person is experiencing delusions, don’t argue or try to “talk the person out of it”. Simply let them know you are there to help.

Be familiar with emergency plans and procedures that exist in places you spend time such as your workplace, school or day care center. Identify how information will be communicated to you in an emergency.

Identify where you will meet family, friends, or caregivers after an emergency. Pick two places to meet: one right near your home and another outside your neighborhood (e.g. library, community center, or place of worship).

Mental Health Providers

Counseling Partners of Kentucky
204 Bevins Lane, Suite A, Georgetown, KY 40324
www.counselingpartnersky.com | (859) 951-9777

Kentucky Counseling Center
1353 W. Main Street, Lexington, KY 40508
www.kentuckycounselingcenter.com | (855) 591-0092

Eastern State Hospital
1350 Bull Lea Road, Lexington, KY 40511
www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/eastern-state-hospital | (859) 246-8000