Coping with Disaster: Mental Health Resources

Like you, I’ve been so moved and saddened by the images and stories of the destruction and aftermath of the recent devastating hurricanes in the southern US and in the Caribbean.

Perhaps you or a loved one have been directly impacted by these terrifying events and you may be looking for tips and strategies to manage the emotional distress you’re now going through.

I’m providing several resources from the American Psychological Association (APA) that may be helpful during this difficult time or as a reference for similar occurrences in the future.

Managing traumatic stress: After the hurricanes provides insight into how victims of disasters can understand their emotions and learn to cope.

Tornadoes, Hurricanes and Children gives tips to parents and others who care for children to help alleviate the emotional consequences of natural disasters.

Managing traumatic stress: Dealing with the hurricanes from afar offers tips to people who are witnessing the images of flooding and hurricane destruction from afar.

Manage flood-related distress by building resilience addresses people’s stress and anxiety related to anticipated flooding.

What psychologists do on disaster relief operations discusses the role psychologists play in disaster relief.

Recovering emotionally from disaster can help people better understand the overwhelming reactions and responses they may be having following the hurricane.  

I think some of the key takeaways from this information include:

  • Address basic needs for safety, shelter, food and water first.
  • Reach out for support and assistance with needed resources.
  • Re-establish connections with family and friends as soon as possible.
  • Re-engage in basic self-care, including regular meals and adequate rest.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol and drugs to cope.
  • Understand there are many uncomfortable but normal reactions (physical, emotional, and behavioral) to loss and trauma.
  • Find healthy ways to express your feelings and share your experiences when you are ready to do so.
  • Allow yourself to mourn the losses you are experiencing.
  • Spend more time with your children to provide them comfort, reassurance and answers to their questions.
  • Be careful not to over-expose yourself to troubling media images about the disaster.
  • Understand that recovery from disaster can take a very long time.
  • Seek professional mental health care if emotional distress becomes more severe or if daily functioning is disrupted.

As we cope with these incomprehensible and horrific situations, it’s reassuring to remember that help and support are available and that slowly but surely, a sense of normalcy can return to our lives. We are all stronger when we pull together and help one another in these times of great need.

Here’s a question: What have you found that has helped you cope more effectively when faced with great loss or trauma? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend. Thanks!


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