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Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, MD, and other disasters that result in loss of life, physical harm, and extreme damage to infrastructure, create prolonged uncertainty, social and economic hardships, and have adverse impacts on community functioning. Actions that promote the five essential elements of Psychological First Aid (safety, calming, connectedness, efficacy, and hope) can reduce individual distress and foster community sustainment through this event, as well as other disasters.  Members of the community can help reduce adversity and chronic stressors by helping friends and neighbors impacted by the loss of their job, experiencing increased stress from daily commutes and other disruptions at home, school, and work. Below are brief and easy-to-use education fact sheets with recommended actions to protect the mental health and well-being of individuals and communities impacted by the bridge collapse.





Common responses immediately after disasters include distress reactions (insomnia, irritability, loss of perception of safety, social isolation, blaming and scapegoating) and health risk behaviors (increased use of alcohol and tobacco, over-dedication to tasks, and reduced self-care). For supervisors, leaders, family members, and healthcare personnel, being alert to these reactions and behaviors, promptly identifying them, and providing interventions can reduce distress and improve functioning and may decrease the likelihood of developing mental disorders. Normalizing the reactions and offering guidance about what to expect with symptoms over time, as well as when and where to get assistance if needed, helps people feel calm and increases self-reliance. Anxiety about the future is best managed through “problem solving”, and supporting people in connecting with practical help when available. The bridge collapse will create difficulties with travel, childcare, work and school schedules, and other basic needs. Assisting people in solving these problems is critical to lowering distress and fostering recovery. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:



Grief is a near universal experience for those impacted by disasters. In the immediate aftermath, traumatic death of family, friends, neighbors, and members of the community causes profound grief. Community leaders, those leading disaster management efforts, and healthcare providers can help by proactively and respectfully inquiring about, acknowledging, and then allowing individuals to process grief. Grief support also involves addressing feelings of loss, mourning those losses, and helping people deal with fears about the future. Be sensitive to the need for rituals, such as memorial and funerals. To support expressions of grief, allow for healing, which ultimately strengthens communities. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:



Health risk and crisis communication is a critical behavioral health intervention following a community disaster. For those leading disaster management efforts, understanding what to say and what not to say, when and how to say it are important elements. Basic principles include being clear and succinct, stating what is known and unknown, indicating when you do not know the answer, committing to following up at a specific time and then doing so, and avoid misleading or efforts to be overly reassuring as these erode trust. Effective communication following a disaster can reduce distress and enhance well-being for affected communities. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail: