Baton Rouge, LA -- The emotional consequences of disasters, such as Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili, can be far-reaching and long lasting. Stress can surface in many forms and it often appears weeks or months after the traumatic event, mental health experts say.
"Dealing with problems caused by the disaster wears on people," said Art Jones, state coordinating officer. "Keeping stress levels down as the recovery process continues is no easy task. We see more physical stress-related symptoms when people are exhausted."
Disaster victims are likely to experience at least one of several emotional responses: anger, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, or increased alcohol or drug use.
Mental health experts suggest a number of ways to relieve the symptoms of emotional distress:
- Talk about your feelings with family, friends and neighbors. Friends and family are good medicine, and sharing common experiences helps people overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
- Get back into daily routines as soon as you can and try to maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
- Get some physical exercise every day.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to emotional stress after a disaster, including excessive fear of the dark, crying, fear of being alone and constant worry. Reassure children that they are safe. Encourage them to talk about their fears; emphasize that they are not responsible for what happened; hold and hug them frequently.
If you or someone you know is suffering from signs of stress, you are encouraged to call the state crisis counseling helpline at 800-749-2673.