Natural and man-made disasters have become much more frequent since the start of the 21st century. Disasters have numerous deleterious impacts. They disrupt individuals, families, and communities, causing displacement, food insecurity, injury, loss of livelihoods, conflict, and epidemics. The physical and mental health impact of a disaster can have extensive short- and long-term consequences. Immediately after a traumatic event, individuals may experience an array of reactions such as anxiety, depression, acute stress symptoms, shock, dissociation, allergies, injuries, or breathing problems. Given the economic and human impact of disasters, social workers are often quick to respond. Historically, the social work profession has provided services on the individual level, but initiatives have expanded to address community preparedness, response, and recovery.
This article will explore the complexities of disaster response and recovery. Health and mental health impacts will be examined. Resilience and posttraumatic growth will then be discussed, exploring how individuals overcome adversity and trauma. Individual and community level preparedness mitigation, response, and recovery will explore how the field of social work has evolved as disasters have increased. Followed by an exploration of how social work has evolved to develop individual and community level preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery activities as disasters have increased. Finally, the article will examine special populations, including those with disabilities, children, indigenous people, older adults, and social service workers in all phases of disasters. As disasters grow more frequent it is vital for social work professionals to improve their efforts. We will conclude the chapter by examining the coordinated efforts the social work profession is involved in to help communities recover and even thrive after a traumatic event.