President's Column

Last year was fraught with a number of major disasters, from wildfires in 13 states, flooding from Hurricane Isaac and Tropical Storm Debby as well as tragic shootings in a Colorado movie theater and a Wisconsin temple. Then, toward the end of 2012, two more tragedies shook our country: the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and Superstorm Sandy. Psychologists from across the country have worked tirelessly to respond to these horrific events, in a variety of ways, such as directly with the families most deeply affected or by talking in communities about ways to make sense of tragedy. Even as we continue to grapple with these events, I am pleased to report that the APA family can be proud of what our association has done to support those affected.

One of our most important efforts is APA's Disaster Response Network (DRN), which is prepared to respond immediately to tragedies and disasters. The network is composed of licensed psychologists with training in disaster mental health who offer volunteer assistance to workers and survivors, primarily through the association's 20-year partnership with the American Red Cross. The DRN program distributes information and updates from the American Red Cross on response and recruitment needs during disasters to the DRN state coordinators nationwide. Coordinators in turn distribute this information to participants in the DRN program within their state psychological associations. If there is a need for disaster mental health support, DRN members respond locally through their Red Cross chapter and, on occasion, for large scale national incidents, may travel to and assist in relief operations.

In the aftermath of Sandy, more than 60 psychologists from across the United States traveled to New York and New Jersey to volunteer in relief operations, in addition to the more than 150 psychologists living in those two states who volunteered. In Newtown, APA worked with the Connecticut Psychological Association to disseminate resources and to support their psychologist responders. The local Red Cross chapter was on hand to respond with approximately 27 volunteer disaster mental health professionals, including psychologists.

For disasters, APA's DRN distributes resources to APA members and the public on ways to help people manage their stress and help their children. APA has a wealth of information on our Psychology Help Center website and Your Mind, Your Body blog. In addition, the association posts information to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. For example, in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the APA article "Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting" was viewed by more than 4 million people.

APA also responded to journalists' inquiries nationwide, connecting them with psychologists for interviews. Many APA members including DRN and Public Education Campaign members gave interviews in their communities and shared tips for helping people manage their distress. Psychologists were the sources for scores of newspaper articles and broadcast media reports, including in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR and NBC.

APA has also sought to ameliorate the financial consequences for its members and affiliates who live or work in communities affected by Superstorm Sandy. Members in areas that have been declared federal disaster areas and suffered a specific personal loss due to Sandy have the option to reduce their 2013 dues based on hardship. Members who qualify should contact APA's Service Center at (800) 374-2721, ext. 5580, or email APA. If affected members have already paid their 2013 dues, they may request a refund of the difference between their APA dues and the hardship dues rate of $79.

There are no perfect solutions, but it's clear we owe a debt of gratitude to the members of APA's Disaster Response Network who volunteer at disaster sites, train other professionals in disaster mental health, and provide expertise in the development psychological resources for the public that are often used by the American Red Cross, the media and other organizations. As APA's president, it is my honor and privilege to thank those who gave of their time and expertise in this endeavor.