Past Conferences


 Past IDMH Annual Conferences & Trainings


2022 Re-Envisioning Disaster Mental Health

In the time since the founding of IDMH, disasters have become a more frequent part of our daily lives. From the increasing number and severity of hurricanes and other extreme weather events to the ongoing challenges in preventing and responding to mass casualty incidents, both human-caused and natural disasters are impacting our lives more than ever before. As the needs of those impacted by disasters continue to change, so must the way we approach working with these populations. 

The 18th Annual IDMH Conference: Re-Envisioning Disaster Mental Health, will focus on the changing needs in the field of disaster management, including how responders can best meet the needs of communities they are serving and how clinicians can better serve responders themselves. Topics that will be covered during this 2-day conference will include Diversity & Inclusion in Disaster Response, Treating Stress & Trauma in First Responder Communities, and Lessons Learned from Recent Disasters.

2021 From 9/11 to COVID-19: Lessons from Two Decades of Disaster Response

Since its founding soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Institute for Disaster Mental Health SUNY New Paltz has held an annual conference to provide New York’s front-line responders, emergency managers, clinical practitioners, and disaster relief volunteers with critical access to information on best practices in the field of disaster mental health. The need for this cross-disciplinary approach to training and planning, which fosters a coordinated response across the fields of disaster management and mental health, has never been clearer than during the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the global stress and anxiety surrounding the outbreak and other ongoing disasters, it’s essential now to revisit the lessons that have been learned during the past 20 years, and to further disseminate insights from 9/11, countless natural disasters, and escalating mass shootings, as well as the broader issues around racial inequities and social justice.

This two-day virtual conference will bring together expert presenters from across the country to review how much we’ve learned about incorporating mental health needs into emergency response, and to look ahead to where we can – and must – go from here. Among numerous other topics, sessions will include panels on the evolution of the practice of disaster mental health over the past 20 years, the needs of frontline workers throughout the pandemic, the challenges of responding to acute disasters during the pandemic, and the need for leadership and change management under rapidly evolving circumstances.

Nationally renowned mental health clinicians will tackle topics including complex grief, supporting children and families through crises, treating trauma in ethnic populations, and addressing vicarious trauma among responders. A final session will consider the future of race and mental health in the United States as we look toward the next wave of disaster mental health needs in an increasingly complex world.

2019 Supporting Children After Disaster and Trauma: Protecting New York’s Future

2; 1,371; 4,500; 2,654: These are four numbers to think about as you prepare to spend a day with us at SUNY New Paltz increasing your ability to Support Children after Disaster and Trauma.

2: Riley Howell and Kendrick Castillo, two students who took down shooters in their schools, dying while surely saving the lives of others. What of the impact on those who were spared? Those who learned about this from the media?

1,371: There have been 1,371 shootings in U.S. schools since 1970, according to one compilation from published sources. That’s an average of 28 a year – but ever since 2013 the number’s been higher than average. The 97 shooting incidents in 2018 was by far the highest in the half century. What about all of those children directly affected? Those impacted indirectly?

4,500: The approximate number of kids left homeless when Paradise, California burned to the ground. The town is still not rebuilt. What’s happening to them? There were 282 natural disasters in the world last year. How are the impacted children faring?

2,654: Across the United States, 2,654 children were separated from their families as a result of U.S. national government immigration policy. What was the impact on them? On others?

Being planful to avoid the worst, but also prepared for the human consequences of disaster, whether natural or human-caused; that’s what all our IDMH conferences have been about. Certainly that is what this 16th annual conference is about, especially focused on the wellbeing of our children.

This year presenters with extensive on-the-ground experience, some with national reputations and international experience, will describe best practice approaches to mitigating the impact of disasters upon children, how best to prepare, how best to respond. A diversity of hard-learned, highly-informed perspectives will be offered.

2018 Psychosocial Response to Mass Violence

During this period of global unrest, intentional acts of mass violence against civilians appear to be escalating. Recent events in the US, Europe, and the UK demonstrate two particular (and often overlapping) trends that merit close attention: Attacks on “soft targets” in difficult to guard locations like nightclubs, concert halls, and public squares, and attacks that weaponize vehicles by driving them into crowds, allowing perpetrators to cause tremendous human damage while avoiding the need to access guns or bombs.

It is essential for emergency management, health, and mental health personnel to work together on how they will prepare for and respond to future mass violence disasters, so our plan for the 2018 event is to interweave the perspectives of experts from these fields. Conference attendees from these fields will learn to address the psychological aspects of these complex events, which will reduce responder and community stress and increase response efficacy

2017 Psychosocial Response to Pandemic Disasters, Infectious Diseases, and Bioterrorism

New York has been affected by several high profile pandemic and infectious diseases threats: SARS, Avian Bird Flu, H1N1, Ebola and now the Zika Virus. Even when no citizens are infected the fear of an outbreak and the preparation for a response to these threats affects New Yorkers. 

Pandemic Disasters occur when a new disease begins to rapidly spread to a large number of people over a wide geographical area. 

Infectious Diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other microorganisms that can spread from one person to another.

Bioterrorism is an intentional release of a pathogen to cause illness, death, and/or panic.   

These events have a critical impact on citizens and responders:

  • The invisible nature of the threat often induces anxiety and fear.
  • Distrust of leaders and messages and susceptibility to rumors often leads to resistance or refusal in following leaders’ recommendations.
  • A person may not know if they have been infected for days or weeks.
  • Individuals presenting with somatic stress symptoms may overburden an already taxed healthcare system.
  • People exposed or who are perceived to be exposed may face stigma.
  • There is a huge risk and burden to healthcare workers who face infection themselves along with the guilt and fear of bringing illness home to their families.
  • Public safety measures including quarantine, shelter in place, and travel restrictions have a tremendous psychological toll.

The IDMH conference is the only one of its kind in New York State that brings together emergency management, health, and mental health personnel, who all must play a role in preparing for and responding to future disasters. Conference attendees from these fields will learn to address the psychological aspects of these complex public health emergencies, which will reduce responder and community stress and increase response efficacy.

 2017 Conference recordings, slides, and more information. 


2016 Effective Psychosocial Response to Mass Transportation Disasters 

New York is a transportation hub in the US, with 20 major national and international airports, 3 commuter railroads serving 203 million people a year, 13 national rail lines, and thousands of bus routes. Although some accidents could involve responding to major hazmat spills/explosions, this conference will focus on events involving passengers. In recent years, New York State disaster workers have responded to plane, train, commuter ferry, and bus accidents and crashes. These events pose significant challenges for all responders.

Conference Recordings


2015 Preparing for the Health and Mental Health Consequences of Climate Change 

The 12th annual IDMH conference will focus on problem solving and practical solutions to the serious health, public health, and mental health consequences of climate change. Presenters with national and international reputations will describe innovative and practical approaches to addressing community-based problems, including the role of messaging to overcome climate change denial and motivate mitigation efforts among individuals and communities, and the psychological impact of living under conditions of uncertainty about the future. Workshops will be tailored for different professional groups likely to be involved in the response to large-in-scope disasters caused by climate change and delivered by leaders in the emergency management, health, and mental health fields with plenty of the “on the ground” experience.

Recent extreme weather events in New York State make it clear that the effects of climate change are not only being felt in developing nations, but in our own region, with dire physical, psychological, and economic consequences we must confront now.

Climate change-related risks are complex and include not only acute, extreme weather events like the hurricanes and floods that have recently struck New York state, but also chronic public health concerns like the drastic increase in Lyme Disease that has sickened and disabled so many in our community. Our state faces the loss of revenues and of many aspects of our way of life that will result in widespread stress, whether an individual is coping with an acute problem like illness or loss of employment, or is more generally trying to adapt to the changing environment.

This conference is intended to jump-start this process by giving emergency services responders, health and mental health professionals, and students preparing to enter these fields understanding of how to recognize and mitigate this upcoming health, public health, and mental health crisis.

Conference Recordings


2014 "Why Don't People Listen?" -The Whole Community and Communicating in a Crisis

The 11th annual Institute for Disaster Mental Health conference on April 25, 2014, focused on how disaster response professionals can best communicate with community members to help them avoid or minimize their exposure to disaster, and to jumpstart their recovery when events do occur. Presentations and workshops addressed specific hazards and populations, with experts familiar with the challenges of message dissemination during complex and rapidly changing disasters.

Conference Recordings


2013 - Radiological Readiness: Preparing for Dirty Bombs, Nuclear Disasters, and Other Events

The tenth annual IDMH training provided a timely and important opportunity for new information and recommendations to be presented and discussed, and incorporated into planning procedures for multiple organizations that would need to collaborate in any response. The training consisted of presenters from the New York State Office of Emergency Management, New York State Department of Mental Health, and New York State Department of Health, who presented perspectives, recommendations, and updates from their respective fields. By reviewing the diverse challenges and consequences of different types of radiological disasters, the whole community will become better prepared for future nuclear accidents or terrorists attacks involving radiation exposure and/or contamination.


2012 - Building Capacity: Managing and Mitigating Responder Stress

DVD available for $35 - Download Form

The ninth annual IDMH training focused on building capacity and resilience through effective stress management and self-care strategies. Disaster response, emergency management, and trauma work are intrinsically and uniquely stressful, and it is essential that the inherent occupational hazards be mitigated through proactive stress management approaches. The well-being of responders is closely tied to self-care and is paramount to the success of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. The care that responders provide to others can only be as good as the care they provide themselves. The training featured presenters who are experts on the interrelated work of mitigating the stress and maximizing the rewards of trauma work, on both individual and organizational levels. Each presenter discussed foundational concepts, current research and recommended practices, and lessons learned from their experiences in the field. 


2011 - Lessons from Adversity: Strengthening Preparedness with Reflections from 9/11

DVD Set Available for $35: Download Form

This spring, mental health professionals, emergency managers, and others nationwide are anticipating the ten-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. To help prepare for both 9/11 commemorative events and future disasters, a careful review of lessons learned over the past decade was the focus of the 8th annual IDMH conference and training.  Please visit the conference website for further details and to access handouts of Powerpoint presentations from the training.

Conference Recordings


2010 -Cognitive Processing Therapy: Two-day Training for Treating PTSD

DVD Training Package Available for $120: Download Form

 One of the most effective evidence-based treatments for PTSD is Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), a 12-session cognitive behavioral treatment. CPT is predominantly a cognitive therapy that can be implemented with or without a smaller exposure component than imaginal exposure therapy and is therefore more acceptable to many clients and practitioners seeking alternatives to purely exposure-focused treatments. It also directly targets associated problems such as depression, guilt, and anger. Originally developed for rape and sexual assault, CPT has been successfully applied to veterans, refugees, and survivors of other traumas. This two-day professional training in Cognitive Processing Therapy was sponsored by the New York State Office of Mental Health and was led by the developer of CPT, Patricia A. Resick, Ph.D., Director of the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System. A training package including DVD-ROM recordings of the entire event, training manual, and other materials is available for purchase; see the Training page for details.


2009- In the Wake of Disaster: Effective Mental Health Interventions

This conference  promoted disaster preparedness and planning to support those health and mental health providers, emergency management personnel, spiritual care providers, first responders and community responders who will be providing assistance to survivors and their families during the early aftermath of disasters. A growing body of evidence indicates that delivering appropriate mental health interventions such as psychological first aid and psychoeducation in the immediate aftermath of disasters can help to prevent serious sequelae in those impacted. Additionally, effective screening methods can help responders direct limited longer-term mental health resources to those who need them most.


2008 -Healing the Scars of War 5th Annual IDMH Conference

Most soldiers returning to civilian life will experience only brief periods of difficulty.  Others, however, will demonstrate high rates of emotional distress both immediately and even long after their wartime experiences.  Although many returning veterans will be treated in VA hospitals, others seek treatment from mental health practitioners outside of the VA system, sometimes months or years after homecoming.  It is clear that all mental health professionals need to provide up- to- date therapeutic interventions to work productively with these veterans. This Conference provided mental health helpers with the latest evidence-informed best practices for assisting returning service personnel experiencing stress reactions by highlighting a number of long-term treatments.


2007: Our Community Prepares

The 2007 conference highlighted a number of approaches to improve the quality and availability of services for mass trauma survivors in the seven-county Hudson Valley region by focusing on disaster preparedness. Day 1 featured a film screening of “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” On Day 2, keynote speaker Darlene Sparks Washington, Ph.D., of the American Red Cross addressed “Creating a Culture of Preparedness.” Panel discussion and professional workshop topics included: Planning Disaster Response in the Mid-Hudson Valley, Pandemic Flu, Emergency Management, and Counseling First Responders.


2006: Treatment Innovations for Disaster/Trauma Survivors

As we approached the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, the 2006 conference focused on long-term treatment for trauma/disaster survivors experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and complicated or traumatic grief reactions. Keynote speakers were Monica McGoldrick, LCSW, on “Traumatic Loss in Context” and Joann Difede, Ph.D., on “Innovative Treatments for Trauma Survivors.” Professional workshops topics included: Fostering Resilience in Children; Psychological First Aid; and Compassion Satisfaction/Compassion Fatigue.


2005: Helping in a Time of Crisis

Keynote speaker John R. Tassey, Ph.D., discussed “The Oklahoma City Bombing: Reflections Ten Years Later.” Panel discussion and professional workshops topics included: Mental Health Response to Disaster, Early Interventions and Debriefing Debate, Psychological First Aid, Long Term Treatment of Traumatic Stress Reactions, and Vicarious Traumatization and Self-Care.


2003: Lessons from Disaster

This initial conference introduced the academic and professional communities to the latest issues, techniques, and concerns in disaster mental health. The keynote speaker was Gerard Jacobs, Ph.D., on “Current Developments in Disaster Mental Health.” Afternoon panel topics included Interventions, Spiritual Care, Cultural Competency, Treating Uniformed Services Personnel, and Working with Schools.