Emotional Health for Families and Friends of Workers on Assignment

If your loved one is an emergency worker who has been called to a disaster, they may have an idea of what to expect when they arrive, but each situation is different. As such, they may know little about where they are going or what they will be doing once they get there. This is a normal part of the disaster response process, as each emergency is unique, and in the beginning little may be known about what supports and services are needed.

Fatigue, Frustration and Anger

Emergency workers labour for long hours in difficult conditions, and may:

  • Move frequently among emergency service locations;
  • Witness destruction, injury and even death;
  • Face strong emotions of victims; and
  • Feel guilty if they have not suffered losses of their own.

These experiences can leave your loved one feeling fatigued, frustrated and angry.

Contacting Your Loved One

You can provide emotional support to a loved one working in a disaster zone by contacting them regularly, if cell phone service is available. It will remind them they are supported by their family and may also ease their return to domestic life once the emergency passes.

Contact the Emergency Social Services Office to:

  • Get a number where your loved one can be reached;
  • Pass a message, or, in the event of a family crisis;
  • Request your loved one’s release and return from the operation.

Returning Home

When your loved one has returned from participating in an emergency response, they will likely feel exhausted and need time to catch-up on their sleep before resuming their normal activities.

Emergency workers provide a lot of assistance in a short time. The pace is fast, so when they return home they may also require time adjust to the more relaxed pace of family life and to re-assume responsibility for the tasks they left behind.

Your family member may also want to talk about what they experienced while away. They may be proud, frustrated, angry, sad, tearful and happy all in a short span. Your loved one may have strong feelings or surprising mood swings. These emotions are normal and generally improve with time. If they don’t, and you need to talk to someone about them, call the Emergency Social Services Office.