This isn’t something I’m sure many of us want to talk about. But I find it to be incredibly important after the recent hurricane in Texas. While many of us sat at home, comfortable and safe, there were thousands of people whose lives were endangered by this natural disaster. But the problem is, while there are plenty of charities set up to provide financial support to the victims of the natural disaster, not as many people are talking about the mental health of the victims.

Here in New York, we get plenty of storms, but none of them amount to the damage caused by such a strong hurricane. From what I’ve read, the victims affected are getting the financial supports they need to get their lives back, but I’m just concerned that we as a country aren’t doing enough to support natural disaster victims when it comes to their mental health.

While I dread the thought of a massive snow storm, which happens often enough here, I could never imagine how I would survive a storm such as Hurricane Harvey. They are doing it the best they can. But I wanted to reach out and speak to those who have been affected in one way or another.

Mental health and natural disaster have a close connection. When tragedy strikes, mental health is not far behind. Be sure to help those who have been affected by natural disaster.

Mental Health & Natural Disaster

As many fears as someone with a mental illness may have, one thing is sure, nothing is more out of our control as a natural disaster. And while many of the individuals affected by the hurricane may not have had a mental health concern prior to the natural disaster, it is well researched that natural disasters can cause mental health concerns such as severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

If you were to google mental health and natural disaster you would find a large number of resources documenting the effects a natural disaster can have on one’s mental health. I did just that and went through the first two pages of results finding almost all trusted resources in the mental health and psychology community. There is no doubt that the victims of Hurricane Harvey have a lot of healing to do.

If you or a loved one is suffering from disaster-related mental health concerns, I urge you to reach out to the Disaster Distress Line. They have qualified professionals that can walk you through the steps you can take to begin the healing process.

The reality of mental health and natural disaster.

How Can Mental Health be Affected by Natural Disaster

While the number of ways an individual’s mental health can be affected is unlimited, I wanted to list a couple of the most common concerns following a natural disaster. Because we all react to situations differently, there is no right or wrong way to handle the emotional damage caused by such an event. These are just a couple of the major, more severe ways an individual can be affected.

How a person’s mental health is affected depends on many personal factors and there is no way to gauge how severe their emotional distress will be. If you’d like to read more the National Center for PTSD has some great information regarding the factors involved in an individual’s response to a disaster.

Please keep in mind, I am not a mental health professional. I do my best to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information possible. It is important that you conduct your own research and be sure that you are well-informed in these matters. If you are suffering from a mental health crisis, please reach out to family, friends, or a local crisis services group. There is help and you don’t have to battle alone.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

While PTSD is most closely recognized as a disorder affecting war veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder can affect an individual who goes through any form of tragedy or trauma.

It is more often, as of lately, recognized as affecting women who have suffered sexual abuse and children who have undergone abuse. But that doesn’t mean that an individual cannot develop PTSD after surviving the tragedy of a natural disaster.

If your loved one has been affected by Hurricane Harvey, or any other natural disaster, I urge you to watch for some common symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Excessive emotional reactions to regular situations (i.e. excessive or uncontrollable crying)

Overly cautious or on guard, jittery, or anxious

Flashbacks of the traumatic event

Loss of memory of part or all of the event

Trouble sleeping or concentrating

Easily startled

Loss of positive feelings or beliefs

This list is not all-inclusive, and not every person experience post-traumatic stress disorder in the same manner. For more information on these symptoms and others, you can visit Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of PTSD. These are trusted resources, which is why I am offering them to you.

Depression

Often victims of natural disaster can suffer similar patterns of emotional response as those who are suffering from grief. Depression is a common mental health concern among all individuals, but the risk is much greater for those who are hit with such a disaster as Hurricane Harvey.

Some common symptoms of depression can include:

Excessive sleep

Inability to sleep

Physical fatigue

A persistent feeling of sadness

Lack of pleasure

Irritability

Suicidal thoughts

These are some of the most common symptoms of depression. Symptoms can range in severity on a person to person basis. As with many mental health concerns, each person may display different symptoms. To get more information on depression symptoms you can read more here. Again, this list is not all-inclusive.

Providing hope ad compassion for those dealing with concerns for their mental health and natural disaster.

Coping Skills for those Affected

It’s true that we have no control over the situation. But that doesn’t have to mean that we have zero control over our mental well-being. Following a natural disaster, it is important to take conscientious steps toward nurturing your mental health. Some coping skills that you can use to take care of your mental health and improve your own health following a disaster are as follows:

Being sure to take care of your physical well-being

Spending time with family and friends

Spend time doing something that you enjoy

Take everything one step at a time

Do not blame yourself for the outcome of the disaster.

Do your best to stick to your regular routine.

Do your best to avoid imagery and news articles regarding the disaster.

These are only some of the steps that you can take. For more coping strategies following a natural disaster, you can visit FEMA and Mental Health America. Again, I am providing you with trusted resources. I would not want to provide you with information that I would consider untrustworthy or unbelievable.

Supporting the Cause

Unfortunately, in these desperate times of need, there are still individuals out there looking to fill their wallets. If you’re looking for ways to provide support to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, this list of trusted organizations will help you donate with peace of mind.

9 Replies to “Managing Mental Health in the Wake of Natural Disaster”

  1. we live right in the path of the upcoming Irma, so I’m glad you touched on something most people tend to overlook. sometimes theres a lot more to just disaster preparedness…it’s personal preparedness as well

  2. I cant imagine having to deal with such disasters, I’m terrified just seeing the new etc on TV let alone imagining how one would feel mentaly going through something like this. Your right we all concentrate on the financial help and forget about the mind of these people. What a great post to get people thinking.

  3. This is such an important topic to cover and talk about – thank you! My cousin lost her home in Houston for the second time (she lost her first during the last flood they had a little over a year ago). I can’t imagine all that they are going through emotionally.

  4. As a Floridian I can really apprecite this blog and say how spot on it is. With Irma in the path of us and a State of Emergency recently been declared… I must say the anxiety is kicking in. Before I had my baby girl, we never even paid much attention to these things… now it’s a different story! Awesome write up, very relatable!

    1. Thank you, Tiffany. It is easy to get caught up in the financial destruction that occurs with such storms, but often the emotional destruction goes unmentioned. I wanted to shed some light on the subject due to the recent hurricane in Texas and the projected storm for the East Coast. I hope that you survive this upcoming storm unscathed with your family and home safe and sound.

  5. I never thought of the connection between mental health and national disasters. Thank you for this post! I suspect it is also difficult for those receiving regular treatment to keep receiving their treatments,

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