The U.S. has been hit with two hurricanes in the last month. The latest – Irma – is a huge Category 5 hurricane. As states in the south prepare for a second disaster on the way, how does this affect people’s mental health?
The effects of the hurricanes have been devastating. Property damage in the billions with many injured or killed. Living through that can be a nightmare. Afterwards, many will display signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and may develop depression due to the destruction of everything in their life.
While experiencing these problems post hurricane is similar to anyone else experiencing the same problems, it is a bit different. Because it was a huge weather force that caused the destruction, people can feel like they are out of control or that they are being punished by God. It seems monumental and many can’t handle that feeling.
It is more difficult to see how things will get better and life will get back to normal, which makes it harder for people to deal with the depression and PTSD.
Study on Depression
A study done by researchers from Sichuan University surveyed 435 children and adults who survived two major earthquakes. After 12 months, 43.9% of those people suffered from PTSD, 20.9% from depression, and 18.9% suffered from both PTSD and depression. After 30 months, 15.7% still suffered from PTSD and 21.9% from depression.
That’s pretty significant. Over half suffered from some combination of PTSD and depression. There are about 49 million people in Texas and Florida. So, if the numbers are similar in the case of these hurricanes, there are about 25 million people that will be suffering from PTSD and/or depression after the hurricanes.
What can you do?
If you are affected or know someone affected, by these storms, what can be done?
- Give comfort – a smile and a hug can go a long way
- Give hope – it is not unexpected to feel depressed if you just lost everything. To get out of it, you need to feel like there really is something on the other side of the rainbow.
- Get some normalcy and routine back – As mentioned in another article, just getting a local Starbucks open gave people a sense that things can get back to normal. Try and provide that feeling in some way.
- Spend time with loved ones – as has been mentioned on this site, that is a great way to fight depression
- Talk to someone – anytime you are feeling PTSD or depression, it is beneficial to talk about it, and this is no different.
- Don’t spend all your time being in the disaster or looking at pictures – that is just reinforcing your feelings of inadequacy. Get away from it when you can.