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Coping With Stress

Release date: 
July 12, 1999
Release Number: 

RAPID CITY, S.D. -- Even though the tornadoes have passed, and rebuilding is under way, many people continue to ride an emotional wave. In some cases, basic survival is a challenge.

For residents of Shannon County and the Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation, the tornadoes that struck June 4-5 left many in shock and disbelief. Many keepsakes from past generations, that can never be replaced, were lost during the storms. Family possessions were displaced and more often than not, lost forever. Families wept as they watched crews tear down their damaged homes. The experience has life-changing affects.

Feelings after a major disaster can include anger, fatigue, and depression. People don't know whether to cry or get mad. The road to recovery involves more than cleaning up. It also involves working to get your emotional house in order.

Stress is a common problem that goes hand in hand with a disaster. And, why not? It surfaces in many forms and usually appears in the days and months following a traumatic event that can be long lasting. Many disaster victims are likely to experience at least one of several emotional responses. The experience is emotionally painful for victims as well as the people helping them.

There are a number of ways people can relieve the symptoms, according to Betty Oldenkamp, Division Director, South Dakota Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health.

  • Speak to a Crisis Counseling representative at FEMA's Disaster Recovery Center in Pine Ridge.
  • Visit a counselor at the Oglala Recreation Center Monday through Friday, 10a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Talk about your experiences and share feelings with friends and family.
  • Realize that not everyone reacts in the same way, or heals at the same pace.
  • Keep families together. Togetherness provides mutual support for everyone.
  • Talk about your feelings with family, friends and neighbors. Friends and family are good medicine, and sharing common experiences helps people deal with and overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.

Children often find it difficult to express fears and anxieties. To help them work through their emotions

  • Talk to them about what happened. Give children simple facts they can understand
  • Encourage them to share their feelings
  • Reassure them that the family is safe and will stay together.

"People must remember that the recovery period can be long, hard and confusing," Oldenkamp, said. "The Oglala are a proud people who sometimes find it difficult to ask for help. A traditional trait of the Oglala is courage - it's a fundamental element that represents the Tribe. I believe they possess a strong commitment to courage. And it takes courage to ask for help."

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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