DTAC Bulletin – Working With Children With Serious Emotional Disturbance During Disasters

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SAMHSA describes serious emotional disturbance (SED) in children and youth as “a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year, which resulted in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the child’s role or functioning in family, school, or community activities.” Estimates of prevalence of SED among U.S. children range from 6.8 to 11.5 percent.

An SED may worsen in children who experience a disaster or other traumatic event. Children without an SED may be more likely to develop a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, which may be worsened when they are simultaneously experiencing other hardships such as separation from a parent or closing of their school.

The following resources are for disaster behavioral health professionals who may work with children during the planning, response, or recovery phases of a disaster. These resources may help you to gain a better understanding of SED, how children may be affected by SED during disasters, and ways you can help a child who may be experiencing SED. More Information.