Mental Health: Lives, Homes, and Peace of Mind Stolen by Harvey and Irma

Posted on  September 18, 2017


Hurricane Harvey did more than taking lives and destroying homes.  The high winds and floods likewise washed away the peace of mind for survivors. As stories begin to emerge of flood victims watching others fall prey to flood waters and, in some instances, seeing a drowning, mental health providers will rapidly be in high demand.  Many Texans remain uncertain about their future but there’s one thing they know for sure.  They need help.  Assistance with restoring homes and lives, but also with restoring their peace of mind.

Now that Hurricane Irma has hit the mainland the need for mental health care will be just as important.  The devastation will be greater than anything Florida has seen before.  The personal loss will result in grief and despair for millions.  The risk of anxiety and depression for victims will increase sharply.


How Can Mental Health Providers Help?

After Hurricane Katrina, researchers studied the mental health conditions of its victims.  A recent poll published by NPR and Kaiser Permanente showed that survivors were still reporting trouble sleeping and controlling their emotions.  Another study of southern states destroyed by large storm systems showed that depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) worsened over time.  The results showed that PTSD rose from 15% just three months after the storm to 21% at the one-year mark.  In the same timeframe, suicidal thoughts rose from 2.4% to 6.4%.

State authorities already recognize the need for mental health care for victims of Harvey and Irma.  Texas opened the door for licensed, out-of-state psychologists in good standing to come work at hospitals to help relieve some of the shortages.  The same applies to nurses and physicians.  They request providers work directly with a relief organization.  The same applies to Florida.

The Red Cross has put out a call for health and mental health volunteers.  Psychologists, physicians, and nurses from out of state can apply to volunteer by filling out an application here: Volunteer Application.  They have received an overwhelming response of more than 5,000 applications.  Providers should continue to check the page to see if the need continues.

Ultimately, the need for mental health providers will continue long after the relief efforts have died down. As victims continue to clean up and focus on things like housing and basic needs they will continue fighting emotional distress. It will be important for providers to still be involved.

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