The aftermath of natural disasters, such as the flooding from Hurricane Harvey, can be devastating. Injury, illness, loss of property, and sadly, loss of lives are part of the storm’s destructive path. What many health experts, however, are also hoping to bring to awareness are the mental ramifications in which flood victims may suffer—and how they may get help.
You may have just experienced (or experienced in the past) a natural disaster event. If you have, you already understand the feelings of pain, grief, and loss that accompany and follow the event. If you have been fortunate enough to stay safe from a catastrophic event (such as an earthquake, flood, or fire), it may help to understand what others have gone through in order to assist.
Needless to say, the flooding in and of itself creates disastrous results. But there are other elements that can accompany the negative effects of the rising water. Some of them are:
- Displacement of creatures. Reptiles, such as snakes and alligators can be found in flood waters. Pictures of swarms of floating red ants surfaced from the recent hurricane in Texas.
- Unseen objects in the water. There can be debris like glass or other materials that can cut or injure you.
- Electric currents may still be live. Electric lines can be under the water carrying dangerous voltage.
- Human and animal waste. Feces can become combined in flood waters causing stomach illness, diarrhea, and E.coli infections.
- Viruses and bacteria spread. Open wounds invite infection from tainted water. Insect populations rise, some carrying disease. Hygienic resources are sparse in populated shelters; humans can get each other sick.
- Chemicals in the water. Pesticides, gasoline, and oil can linger in the water causing rashes, fungal infections, and in some cases, fires.
- After the water dries. Once the flooding recedes, there is often damage from mold. Many flood victims wind up with respiratory illness from breathing in mold fumes.
Relief Is On The Way
The American Red Cross, FEMA, and other volunteers and contributors (both corporate and personal) have stepped up to assist the victims. Medical care has been made accessible to as many who can be reached. Temporary shelter is also being provided. Larger drug stores have helped with getting medication to those in need.
The mental trauma, however, may be more than many people can handle. Stress, anxiety, and depression can increase—especially for those with pre-existing mental health issues. Clinical social workers have been talking to victims in the larger shelters—listening, guiding, and offering solace and hope.
Signs in centers showing the symptoms of PTSD have been posted for the victims. Everyone is encouraged to seek help if they are struggling with unmanageable feelings. Many tears and lack of sleep are normal after experiencing a natural disaster.
One doctor (who also lost her home in Hurricane Harvey) said she and her children have been helping others in the shelter. She explained that it took their minds of their own woes by helping others. She also added that the community recovery effort is crucial.
-The American Red Cross is calling on mental health professionals to volunteer to help storm survivors.
-The National Alliance on Mental Illness is providing hotlines for people affected by the storm.
-Those who have strong bonds with friends, family members, and/or coworkers tend to mentally recover more quickly from the support and strength with others.
-The Health and Human Services Department offers a Disaster Distress Helpline to help those struggling with mental health problems resulting from the storm. That toll-free number, staffed by mental health professionals, is 1-800-985-5990.
You can help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS, or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Read up on other articles about achieving best physical and mental health, even in the most stressful of times. www,GetThrive.com.