Schools and Disasters: Safety and Mental Health Assessment and Interventions for Children

Betty S. Lai, Ann Margaret Esnard, Sarah R. Lowe, Lori Peek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


This article draws on experiences and lessons from global disasters and utilizes the United Nations Comprehensive School Safety Framework to highlight the necessary role of safe schools in protecting children, as well as adult staff, from the immediate threats and long-term implications of disasters. Specifically, we focus on three well-established pillars of school safety: Pillar I: Safe Learning Facilities; Pillar II: Disaster Management; and Pillar III: Risk Reduction and Resilience Education. In addition, we propose a potential fourth pillar, which underscores the function of schools in postdisaster mental health assessment and intervention for children. We argue that schools offer a central location and trusted institutional space for mental health assessment and intervention after disasters. We also examine the important linkages between schools, child mental health, and household and family recovery. We conclude with recommendations for filling gaps in research and practice related to ensuring the safety of schools and the associated health and well-being of children in the face of future disasters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109
JournalCurrent Psychiatry Reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Assessment
  • Children
  • Disasters
  • Intervention
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Resilience
  • Risk reduction
  • Safety
  • Schools


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