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6 Harvey could impact victims’ mental health Thursday September 14, 2017

The Egalitarian


Jimmieka Mills

To say that emotions around Houston are high would be an understatement. The devastation that Hurricane Harvey left in its wake was not limited material possessions, many residents in the Houston area are experiencing a mental hurricane of emotions that they themselves may not be able to make sense of. “It is important for individuals to understand that a lot of what they’re feeling is not just normal day to day stress. If you’re experiencing heightened emotions and other symptoms of trauma it most likely is a response to the storm and you should seek someone out and at least have an initial conversation about what you’re feeling.” Says Annalee Gulley, Director of Public Policy and Government affairs at Mental Health America of Greater Houston. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD has long been associated with veterans of war, but PTSD can occur to anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. “I think when we label trauma as only as PTSD individuals have difficulty identifying their experience as similar because that term is so tied to the military. That is not the case. Anyone’s mental health can be affected greatly by a traumatic experience and there shouldn’t be stigma attached to seeking help,” says Gulley. Whatever the name, the trauma that Houston residents are feelings is widespread and undeniable. “One thing that we’re seeing across the board throughout Houston is no matter where you go people have been affected by the storm. Whether it’s that their house flooded and they had to evacuate, losing everything, or just someone who was watching the news non-stop and saw all this devastation, the resulting trauma is very real.”

AP Graphic

There are several signs of trauma, ranging from increased anxiety to struggles with personal relationships. Individuals who may have already been experiencing issues within their personal life may face even greater barriers to recovering following Hurricane Harvey. “One of the things that you’re going to see in PTSD or trauma affected individuals is that all emotions are heightened. If you have trouble with your spouse, that’s going to be exacerbated, if there are family issues that you’re grappling with those are going to become more difficult to deal with. If someone has previously experienced a mental or behavioral health issue, they’re going to feel heightened symptoms, they’re going to be more agitated, they’re going to have more anxiety, they will have depression sink in.” Says Gulley. The hurricane left thousands displaced and many found refuge in emergency shelters set up around Houston two of the largest being The George

R. Brown Convention Center and NRG Stadium. MHA of Greater Houston staff were at both locations and through their partnerships with local pharmacies which included CVS, Walgreens, Kroger and Walmart 18-wheeler trucks filled with prescriptions for victims were delivered to the shelters. “We had an overwhelming response from the mental and behavioral health provider network to ensure that these clinics that were set up quickly within these shelters were well staffed and that individuals could both receive their medication but also have access to either an MD or a licensed clinical social worker to start working through these issues immediately to stop the exacerbation of the trauma they’ve experienced.” Says Gulley Although Gulley believes that the healing process from the trauma caused by Harvey may not be truly seen for one to three years from now, there Is critical work that she feels

needs to be immediately. “I think the biggest thing we have to make sure we’re doing right now is educating people in Houston about what they’ve been going through - especially individuals who might not have gone into the storm with any type of medical or mental health diagnosis which doesn’t mean what they’re experiencing is not truly trauma.” Students may be feeling especially anxious about things at home, the shortened semesters impending deadlines or any of the other signs of trauma, if this is the case Gulley urges students to seek support. “We are really working to proactively push counselors into the community. At this point we would suggest if you’re on a college campus and you have access to a counselor try to find an appointment time and just talk about the feelings you’re experiencing. If you’re involved in a faith based organization, go and talk to your pastor or rabbi and start talking to any individual you trust and start sharing the emotions that

you’re feeling.” MHA of Greater Houston’s current mission is to make sure they are prepared to reach directly to the communities within the coming weeks to provide the aide to many who because of the stigma surrounding trauma, have remained silent. Gulley says, “Symptoms that are seen with PTSD will be seen community wide in varying degrees. I think there is less of a need to classify it and more of a need to make sure that individuals understand that when they are feeling these things first of all it’s a common reaction and response to the events we’ve seen over the last 10 days but that it’s also something that they should talk to someone about because the best way to combat trauma is by talking about it.” ——— Crisis Intervention Houston (832) 416-1177 Disaster Distress Hotline 1-800985-5990 or text “talkwithus” to 66746 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor.

FEMA sees trailers only as last resort after storms Emily Schmall & Frank Bajak Associated Press

Frank Bajak/AP Photo

Salvador Cortez, 58, shows debris in the front yard of his home in Houston on Saturday. Unable to afford an alternative and awaiting a solution from the Federal Emergency Management, he is sleeping in his musty, flood-gutted home.

HOUSTON — In a 2017 hurricane season that has already seen two monster storms, Harvey and Irma, manufactured homes are turning out to be just a small fraction of the federal government’s plan to deal with displaced people, with only 1,700 trailers available. Where exactly the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to send those trailers, Texas or Florida, is not yet clear. But what is clear is they will only be used as a last resort.

That’s in stark contrast to 2005, when 144,000 FEMA trailers became symbols of the troubled federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita after lawsuits accused some of those units of being riddled with high levels of cancercausing formaldehyde. FEMA’s new model for monster storms honed in the wake of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy puts the emphasis on paying for hotels and apartments for temporary housing. That, along with see Last Resort, Page 7

Profile for The HCC Egalitarian

The September 14, 2017 issue of The HCC Egalitarian  

Houston, South Texas begins to recover after Hurricane Harvey; Harvey could impact victims' mental health; Steps to recover from Harvey; Tru...

The September 14, 2017 issue of The HCC Egalitarian  

Houston, South Texas begins to recover after Hurricane Harvey; Harvey could impact victims' mental health; Steps to recover from Harvey; Tru...