DENVER (KDVR) — Those leading the rescue and recovery efforts post-Hurricane Ian will deal with high-stress situations that can take a toll on their mental health, something experts say needs to be addressed.

CU Anschutz mental health expert who has treated victims, volunteers and first responders following natural disasters Ian Stanley says it’s important to know the signs. With thousands of Colorado first responders and volunteers heading across the country to lend a hand.

“First responders’ instinct is going to be to help other people. It’s in their training, it’s in their character, and it’s really important they take stock of their own stress levels and mental health and lean on each other for support,” Stanley said.

Studies show post-traumatic stress disorder is the most common mental health disorder following a hurricane like Ian or other natural disasters affecting 30 to 40% of people. Depression and anxiety are also common.

“The core of PTSD is this idea or a feeling that the world is unsafe and that there’s danger that we need to be on the lookout for and tragedies like hurricanes where there’s this immense loss of life and suffering can activate that fear part of the brain,” Stanley said.

It’s important for responders to look out for one another, stay connected to those back home, acknowledge stress and difficult emotions you are experiencing and most importantly be kind to yourself.

“It’s really important they take stock of their own stress levels and mental health and lean on each other for support. At our core, we’re social creatures and so I think if we pull from that social element our empathy and compassion being a listening ear for other people can go a long way.”

If you have a loved one who is responding it’s best to make sure you know the signs and act as a source of support once they are home and if the signs last longer than a month, help them find resources.