Web-based Empowerment Program for Disaster Victims and First Responders

Period of Performance: 03/15/2008 - 02/28/2009


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Bluesun, Inc.
Colorado Springs, CO 80905
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This project will support research and further development of a novel commercializable product designed to reduce and mitigate the psychological impact of a major disaster. The long-term objective of this project is to provide a scientifically supported, highly accessible, culturally relevant, anonymous multi- media system that fills the current gap in mental health disaster assistance. Journey to Disaster Recovery is a customizable web-based program for post-disaster recovery developed based on social cognitive theory to empower traumatized individuals to cope more effectively, and assist those in greater mental health distress to seek more in-depth treatment. This web-based system will be designed to help restore a sense of control (i.e. coping efficacy) and mastery to survivors and first responders by providing a) knowledge to assist in understanding the recovery process, b) skill training to manage trauma related distress, and c) assistance in determining the need for and access to professional assistance. The product has wide potential utility with users from a variety of sectors including the general public, emergency services workers, hospital personnel, school personnel, and mental and physical health providers. The customizable nature of the product provides a unique opportunity to generate an adaptable site that is culturally relevant to different users. The four specific aims for this project include: Aim 1: determine the initial feasibility, likeability, cultural relevance and ease of use of a web-based empowerment recovery program for a high need population and selected first responders following a mass disaster; Aim 2: investigate the utility of the interactive web-based empowerment recovery program in reducing distress, increasing knowledge, and improving help seeking for a traumatized sample; Aim 3: critically evaluate the effectiveness of using an interactive web-based empowerment program as a mental health referral system for high need populations seeking assistance following a mass disaster; and, Aim 4: solicit feedback from disaster response and recovery agencies and providers about the unique challenges of deploying the website post-disaster and about the technical requirements and constraints for using the site immediately following a disaster. - Relevance Approximately 53 million people accessed the Internet following the 9/11 terrorist attacks demonstrating the utility of the Internet in a time of need. More than 50 percent of individuals exposed to a natural disaster will experience severe to very severe mental distress, yet very few will seek out available mental health services. Journey to Disaster Recovery is a highly accessible, anonymous website designed to promote mental health and mitigate psychological problems following a major disaster.