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Christian Burgess


Disaster Distress Helpline


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I agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand that I will receive a subscription to ZoomInfo Community Edition at no charge in exchange for downloading and installing the ZoomInfo Contact Contributor utility which, among other features, involves sharing my business contacts as well as headers and signature blocks from emails that I receive.

Background Information

Employment History

Director, Disaster Distress Helpline


Director, Disaster Distress Helpline

Mental Health Association

Director of School Programs

Safe Horizon Inc

Web References(26 Total References)

Expert Commentators [cached]

Christian Burgess, L.M.S.W.
Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline Christian Burgess, L.M.S.W., worked for over 10 years in youth violence prevention and trauma intervention before entering the field of disaster behavioral health. Prior to becoming the Director for the Disaster Distress Helpline in December 2011, he served as the Training Coordinator for the Oil Spill Distress Helpline, helping to launch that project in 2010. Immediately before coming to Link2Health Solutions (the administrators for SAMHSA of the Disaster Distress Helpline), Christian served as the Director of School Programs for Safe Horizon, one of the nation's largest service providers to victims of crime and abuse, including working on post-9/11 recovery with impacted communities. At Safe Horizon, Christian also served on the agency's Community Trauma Response Team & worked as a part-time child and adolescent therapist at their Counseling Center.

Disaster Trauma Committee Meeting Topics, 1997 to present - National Association of Social Workers New York City [cached]

Also, Guest speaker Christian Burgess, LMSW, Director, Disaster Distress Helpline, MHA of NYC, 2/15/13

Sam Bradley | ProMed Network Blog [cached]

Joining Sam on the panel are Melany Avrut, Program Manager for Here 2 Help Connect, Joe Samalin, Outreach Manager for the Disaster Distress Helpline, and Christian Burgess, Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline.

The impacts tend to be greater in terms of loss of life, loss of property or the potential for psychological distress on a sizeable population," Christian Burgess, director of the DDH, told IPS.
Following the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City, there was a need for a nationwide, phone-based crisis counselling service, Burgess says. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( SAMHSA), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) established the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2005, but created an entirely separate hotline for disaster counselling after the 2010 BP oil spill. Transitioning from the Oil Spill Distress Helpline, the DDH went live in February 2012, receiving its first major spike in calls following Hurricane Isaac, which tore through the Gulf Coast on the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. "It's not therapy, it's not a substitute for therapy. Really, it involves listening," Burgess says, comparing the helpline to triage for mental health. Counsellors are trained to listen for symptoms of distress that may indicate the need for crisis intervention, like suicidal or homicidal intent, and callers may also be at risk of depression or substance abuse. The DDH saw spikes in calls after the Newtown shootings, in which a lone gunman killed 20 elementary school students and six staffers, and the Boston Marathon bombing in April, as well as the Oklahoma tornadoes in May. "School shootings in particular tend to trigger stronger feelings of distress, simply because it's easier for a large part of the population to identify with the sadness and grief," Burgess says. "It shakes our foundation of what is supposed to happen, the order of things... especially if you were already feeling vulnerable before the event." Burgess says that the majority of calls following the Newtown shooting didn't come from Connecticut, but from all over the country. After a major disaster, repeated coverage on the 24-hour news cycle, sensationalised headlines and the easy accessibility of Internet allow for the vicarious trauma of rewatching distressing events, which adds to anxiety, Burgess says. "The event in and of itself is traumatic... but it's heightened by the constant media exposure, particularly for those who would have been at risk before the event," Burgess said. Trigger events still loom, like the State Department's closure of 19 U.S. embassies across North Africa and the Middle East in early August. The DDH have received calls from people concerned about what the terror alert means, Burgess says. Calls related to Hurricane Sandy marked the first time the DDH received sustained levels of calls over a period of time, Burgess says. At its peak, Sandy resulted in a 2,000 percent increase in calls from two weeks prior, before the forecasts began to take shape. Texts increased by 600 percent. "In December we were starting to get longer calls from people, and mental health concerns were coming to the surface," Burgess says, due to fewer resources and the emotional fatigue of still-displaced people.

Officials are now preparing for a new wave of calls from people struggling with depression and other mental health issues, said Christian Burgess, director of the Disaster Distress Helpline, a national crisis hotline run by the federal government that provides a network of trained counselors in the aftermath of a major disaster.

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