Mental Health Care in the Midst of Tornado Trauma

Story by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas.

The team at Mental Health America of Greater Dallas saw the destruction caused by tornadoes tearing through Dallas last Sunday night and knew there would be trauma to address. Because of their existing partnership with Dallas ISD guidance counselors, the first step to help is creating a mental health goodie bag for students from Walnut Hill Elementary and Cary Middle School, two schools that were declared a total loss due to their tornado damage.


Mary Kate Kohl, Development Director for Mental Health America (MHA) of Greater Dallas, connects deeply to the students who may be experiencing anxiety after the storm. “My first anxiety symptoms started in third grade, but my parents thought they were just little tendencies, like being afraid of food poisoning or my obsession with saving money in case there was another Great Depression,” shared Mary Kate. “It wasn’t until high school and I was out of school for a year with a series of illnesses that I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and was able to get treatment.” Now Mary Kate is using her personal experience to help others.

The mental health goody bags will be filled with items known to relieve anxious feelings like fidget spinners, small stuffed animals, and play-doh. Mary Kate and her teammates have also created a booklet to help students identify what anxiety or a panic attack may feel like, and how to cope with traumatic events like a tornado. The bags are being assembled on November 15 and items are being collected through November 13. Coloring books have been donated by Frost Bank and earbuds by Region 10, but the MHA team is relying on the public’s generosity to fill out the rest of the bags. If you or your community group would like to contribute, here are the items you can drop off at the MHA office:

  • Play-Doh

  • Markers

  • Journals

  • Encouraging notes

  • Small stuffed animals

  • Books

  • Calming Essential Oils

  • Fidget Toys

Mental Health Goody Bag Example.jpg

The MHA team has also compiled an Amazon Wish List for anyone who would like to order items online. For more information on donations or volunteering for the mental health goody bags, you can contact Kate at

If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.