Work in progress. Return here for updates January 3.
Complied and written by Barrington H. Brennen
Counseling Psychologist and Minister of the Gospel
Hurricanes are very stressful events. All unplanned events that bring uncertain change in our lives, called crises, are always stressful. Hurricanes affect all of us in some way or another. Every member of the family will experience some form of negative response to a hurricane over the next few days and months after it passes. The signs of post-hurricane trauma are not always immediate; the emotional effects may not appear for months. Recovery time varies as well. Stress takes its toll not only on those hit directly by the hurricane, but also on those who made it through physically untouched by the hurricane. Mental health experts say that those who escaped the hurricane untouched often suffer "survivor's guilt.''
People suffering survivor's guilt often push themselves to the limit trying to help. Children, in particular, resent the shattering of their routine. That resentment may manifest itself in enormous guilt, nightmares, temper tantrums and problems at school.
What’s important in dealing with trauma after the storm is to understand that there is a natural grieving process -- denial, questioning, acceptance and recovery -- after the loss of normalcy, loved ones, and property.
A research was done in 2007 to document changes in mental and physical health among 392 low-income parents exposed to Hurricane Katrina and to explore how hurricane-related stressors and loss relate to post-Katrina well being. The research team consisted Jean Rhodes and Christian Chan from University of Massachusetts, Christina Paxson and Cecilia Elena Rouse from Princeton University, Mary Waters from , Harvard University and Elizabeth Fussell from Washington State University. The title of the research is "The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mental and Physical Health of Low-Income Parents in New Orleans." Briefly the research results indicated:
"The prevalence of probable serious mental illness doubled, and nearly half of the respondents exhibited probable PTSD. Higher levels of hurricane-related loss and stressors were generally associated with worse health outcomes, controlling for baseline socio-demographic and health measures. "
It is clear readers, that there can be major effects to our emotionally well-being after a major hurricane. It is imperative the individuals who experienced loss during a hurricane should take note. Here are a few points to consider.
What Are Some of the Responses After a Hurricane?
How Can Adults Cop? What Should You Do?We cannot avoid stress, but we can learn to manage it or how to respond to the stressors. Here are a few suggestions:
How Do Children Deal With Stress, Especially After a Hurricane?Here are some of the signs of stress in children:
What Can Parents or Adults Do to Help Their Children Cope?
The repeated viewing of violent and horrific TV, Internet and newspaper images of traumatic events can upset them, and negatively affect the way they feel, behave, and perform in school. (This information is taken from LifeNet NYC for Children)
Know how children understand disturbing news images:
Ages Six and Younger
Ages Seven to 12
- Believe that what they see on television is happening live; while they are watching it.
- Think that a traumatic event is happening over and over again when they see repeated images of it.
- Find images of people suffering, crying, or being attacked very upsetting.
Ages 13 and Older
- Understand that the news is only made up of reports about events that have already happened.
- Find disturbing media images upsetting.
- May become anxious for their own and their family’s safety.
- They can be scared and horrified by the same things as younger children.
- They can become deeply worried and anxious for their own and their family’s safety and future.
- They may want to know why the bad things they see on the news are happening.
Here’s are a few steps one can take to help restore emotional well-being and a sense of control in the wake of the hurricane or other traumatic experience. These steps were prepared by the American Psychological Association and I thought can be help for us in The Bahamas.
One thing most people learn after such a national disaster like Hurricane Matthew, is that life is more valuable than material possessions. While we do love our material possessions, these things can be easily replaced. Sometimes major disasters helps us to realize that we really do not need certain things, or it helps us to put things in proper perspective. One man last week was miserable because since there was no electricity and running water in his home after the hurricane the heat in his home became very unbearable. It was frustrating he said. He began to complain and became very restless. However, after driving around the island visiting friends and neighbors and observing their loss and damage, he realized that he did not have much loss as compared to others. Suddenly his complaining turned in to a spirit of thankfulness and a sense of peach. The house was no longer hot. It is imperative that we put our personal loss into perspective. It’s a healthy way of coping.
Here are scripture passages that may motivate you during this time:
Dear friends, you need not go through the pain of loss all alone. Contact someone you can talk to. A counselor, pastor, friend, or relative. If your stress signs linger long or are currently unbearable, then seek professional help.
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