Headwaters responded to a national request to assist the island of St. John with the further development of their emergency response system. A strong team led by St. John’s Community Foundation had been actively working to enhance their infrastructure for disaster response. Our team provided support in one of their areas of expertise: psychosocial support in disaster response for first-responders, health care professionals, community leaders and emergency management personnel in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Some examples of the training provided include psychological first aid (PFA), grief and loss, resiliency, compassion fatigue and cultural competency. The goal of this partnership and of the training was that St. John’s leadership would be able to develop the skills themselves and continue to build their capacity by training others in the community.
St. John’s location in the Caribbean makes it particularly vulnerable to severe weather including major hurricanes. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo, and, in 1995, Hurricane Marilyn, caused dozens of deaths and injuries as well as the destruction of property in the billions of dollars. Today, more communities than ever before are investing in greater planning and preparation for natural disasters, which makes Headwaters experience and expertise in mental health support all the more valuable. A focus area for Headwaters is training leaders within communities so that the leaders have the capacity to teach and empower others.