Hurricane Harvey has impacted Houston and the surrounding areas in serious ways. Many people in the community are experiencing loss and mental health concerns, as a result of the traumatic event. It is important to recognize that everyone responds to traumatic events, such as a Category 4 hurricane, differently. For some people, the recovery process may be more immediate, while others may not begin to process the event until months or possibly years later. Everyone will move at their own pace to pick up the pieces after a large-scale natural disaster.
The symptoms following a traumatic event can be physical or emotional responses that emerge from the sudden shock of such an overwhelming natural disaster. These responses are called traumatic stress reactions. Physically, the symptoms may present as headaches, fatigue, sweating or being easily startled. Emotionally, someone may have feelings of fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, numbness, hopelessness, or helplessness. Over time, stress reactions could develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which includes more intrusive symptoms with more intense feelings of fear that last more than a month and hinder daily life. It is important to recognize traumatic stress and find ways to cope with it or seek professional help to avoid symptoms worsening as the time after the hurricane continues on.
Focusing on well being and recovery can prevent serious problems from occurring in the aftermath of the hurricane. The following steps may help in coping with the after effects of the storm and establishing control over life with a “new normal”. Adopting a positive mindset to work through this challenge is key to reframing the event, while recognizing and allowing oneself to mourn losses is necessary also. A support network is useful when asking for help and can create an experience of open communication. Talking through experiences can be a nice way to reconnect, empathize with others, and process thoughts and feelings together. Support groups are also helpful for finding people who have had similar experiences and reactions to the hurricane. Finally, relaxation techniques and healthy behaviors such as sleep and eating balanced meals can help in reestablishing routines that may been lost during and after the storm. Healing from a disaster of this scale is a gradual process that will take time and energy. Throughout the coming months and year ahead remember to ask for help and take care of one another.
The Hope and Healing Center & Institute is providing a range of relief services to those who have been affected by the storm. All of the services are free of charge and will continue to be available in the aftermath of the hurricane. For information, please call (713) 871-1004 or www.hopeandhealingcenter.org.
Mental Health Intern
Hope and Healing Center & Institute