How Disasters Like Hurricane Harvey Will Affect Survivors’ Mental Health

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In 2005, Hurricane Katrina uprooted the lives of thousands in Louisiana

Twelve years later, Hurricane Harvey has devastated Texas, impacting thousands’ safety, health, and well-being. Unfortunately, these affects will likely extend far beyond the short term for many affected.

Systematic reviews show that the short term effects of storms and flooding often result in fatalities related to open wounds and gut infections. However, the long-term health consequences of disaster survivors are just as devastating, even if they aren’t always immediately life threatening.

Rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses tend to surge after devastating disasters like this. And the after-effects can last for decades. But for the time being, the immediate after-effects are the most sensitive.

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Now that relief efforts are successfully moving evacuees out of physical harm’s way, they are doing their best to turn their attention to aiding these individuals’ mental health. Licensed clinical social worker Brittany Burch told NPR many of these people are anxious and traumatized.

“There are a lot of people in shock, trying to adjust to what’s happened and what happens from here,” she said. “There’s a lot of stress just being here, and then the extra mental health needs that arise in the midst of this.”

Many people forced to leave their homes already lived with depression and other mental health conditions before Harvey hit. Both these individuals and those struggling through the aftermath needs as much support as local and national professionals and organizations can provide.

It is essential that health professionals closely monitor impacted communities for a number of diseases. However, it is just as important that those affected receive mental health counseling, as past research shows those who need it following traumatic disasters like hurricanes and flooding do not receive it. Friends, families, and surrounding community members should offer support not just in physical care, but psychological nurturing as well.


Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.


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