Pago Pago, American Samoa -- While American Samoa recovers from the physical damage wrought by Cyclone Heta, disaster recovery teams continue to assess lingering mental-health needs among villagers, through a grant of more than $112,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its Crisis Counseling Assistance Program.
Bilingual teams are conducting outreach to Heta-impacted villages in an effort to identify where there is a need for screening, diagnosis and counseling as a result of the disaster.
“Having one’s property damaged or destroyed – especially a family home – takes an emotional toll that can last for months or beyond,” said Thomas J. Costello of FEMA, federal coordinating officer. “Crisis counseling can help people recognize normal stress reactions and emotions caused or aggravated by the cyclone, so that they may fully regain control over their lives.”
Common reactions to a disaster may include nightmares, difficulty sleeping, feelings of being overwhelmed, fear of the weather, anxiety about the future, difficulty making decisions, hopelessness, disappointment with outside help, headaches, increased anger or aggression, domestic violence, frustration, and feelings of powerlessness. These feelings can be exhibited by people of all ages. Children are particularly vulnerable to post-disaster stress.
The crisis-counseling outreach is administered by the American Samoa Government through the Governor’s appointed representative, Lt. Gov. Aitofele Sunia.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.