Social workers play a number of critical roles in disaster relief situations that help the entire recovery process flow more smoothly. Often, social workers remain on the scene for months or even years after a traumatic event to assist members of the local population suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other trauma-related disorders. Social workers can also fill the role of community organizers working in conjunction with local spiritual leaders who directly facilitate healing within foreign cultures. Response workers responsible for the identification of human remains typically experience severe stress; on-site social workers in these situations may mean the difference between functional emotional processing and extreme depression. Individuals who feel called to provide support in disaster situations may be well served by earning a degree in social work.
A Long Term Commitment
Disaster situations, regardless of whether they result from natural or man-made causes, often require years of rebuilding and result in intense emotional responses including anger, sadness, frustration and more. In order to help community members struggling with these emotions, social workers are usually assigned to an area that has experienced a disaster in order to provide counseling services for an extended period of time. The young and elderly within affected communities often have the greatest needs and may require a significant portion of on-site social workers’ attention, and social workers may find themselves working with victims for weeks, months or even longer – depending on the nature of the disaster.
Communal Organizers and Facilitators
When social workers provide relief in a foreign location where the spiritual traditions are significantly different than those they’re used to, their role often shifts to that of community organizer and/or facilitator to assist local shamans, folk healers, and/or indigenous religious organizations in becoming as effective as possible in helping the local population. Social workers may not be familiar with local cultural practices and therefore are not able to directly impact community members through dialog, yet their organizational assistance is a key factor. This assistance can provide local healers the ability to work with a larger than normal number of community members simultaneously.
Support for Response Workers
Response workers are often tasked with the role of identifying human remains after a natural or man-made disaster. Not surprisingly, these individuals often suffer from extreme bouts of anxiety, stress and depression. Social workers trained in handling PTSD disorders may become a significant source of comfort and support for response workers who otherwise may be unable to complete their own crucial role.
Disaster Relief Social Work is Critical
Social workers on the scene of a disaster fill roles which range from one-on-one counseling of local community members to assistance in helping the region as a whole move through the complex process of rebuilding. For some, the rewards of this type of work provide the deep satisfaction that brings purpose and meaning to life. If you are considering expanding your career into the field of social work, an Online Master’s in Social Work from the Case Western Reserve University can be helpful in achieving your goal.