Managing Mental Health in the Wake of Natural Disaster
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 & 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.
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
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.
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:
Inability to sleep
A persistent feeling of sadness
Lack of pleasure
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.
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.