The emotional toll that disaster brings can sometimes be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business, or personal property.
• Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way.
• It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends.
• Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
• Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
• Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
• Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
• Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
• It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain.
Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. Even individuals who experience a disaster “second hand” through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.
Contact local faith-based organizations, voluntary agencies, or professional counselors for counseling. Additionally, FEMA and state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis counseling assistance.
When adults have the following signs, they might need crisis counseling or stress
• Difficulty communicating thoughts.
• Difficulty sleeping.
• Difficulty maintaining balance in their lives.
• Low threshold of frustration.
• Increased use of drugs/alcohol.
• Limited attention span.
• Poor work performance.
• Headaches/stomach problems.
• Tunnel vision/muffled hearing.
• Colds or flu-like symptoms.
• Disorientation or confusion.
• Difficulty concentrating.
• Reluctance to leave home.
• Depression, sadness.
• Feelings of hopelessness.
• Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
• Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
• Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone.
The following are ways to ease disaster-related stress:
• Talk with someone about your feelings—anger, sorrow, and other emotions- even though it may be difficult.
• Seek help from professional counselors who deal with post-disaster stress.
• Do not hold yourself responsible for the disastrous event or be frustrated because you feel you cannot help directly in the rescue work.
• Take steps to promote your own physical and emotional healing by healthy eating, rest, exercise, relaxation, and meditation.
• Maintain a normal family and daily routine, limiting demanding responsibilities on yourself and your family.
• Spend time with family and friends.
• Participate in memorials.
• Use existing support groups of family, friends, and religious institutions.
• Ensure you are ready for future events by restocking your disaster supplies kits and updating your family disaster plan. Doing these positive actions can be comforting.
Children's coping with disaster or emergencies is often tied to the way parents cope. They can detect adults fears and sadness. Parents and adults can make disasters less traumatic for children by taking steps to manage their own feelings and plans for coping. Parents are almost always the best source of support for children in disasters. One way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children before a disaster is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.
Suggestions to help reassure children include the following:
• Personal contact is reassuring. Hug and touch your children.
• Calmly provide factual information about the recent disaster and current plans for insuring their safety along with recovery plans.
• Encourage your children to talk about their feelings.
• Spend extra time with your children such as at bedtime.
• Re-establish your daily routine for work, school, play, meals, and rest.
• Involve your children by giving them specific chores to help them feel they are helping to restore family and community life.
• Praise and recognize responsible behavior.
• Understand that your children will have a range of reactions to disasters.
• Encourage your children to help update your a family disaster plan.
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8).