INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The emotional consequences of a disaster such as the Hoosiers experienced during the storms, tornadoes and flooding from May 27 through June 25 can be far-reaching and long lasting.
"Keeping stress levels down as the recovery process continues is no easy task," said Justo "Tito" Hernandez, coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Residents affected need to remember their emotional response is perfectly normal for the situation."
Project Aftermath has provided a Hotline (1-800-564-6460) Monday through Friday from 9a.m. to 5p.m. for those who feel they need additional emotional support.
Stress can surface in many forms and often appears weeks or months following a traumatic event. Disaster victims may experience at least one of several emotional responses; anger, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity and increased alcohol or drug use.
Disaster mental health experts suggest that victims of disasters talk about their feelings with family, friends and neighbors. Sharing common experiences helps people deal with and overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness. Getting back into daily routines as soon as possible, trying to maintain a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep are also helpful.
Children are particularly vulnerable to emotional stress after a disaster, with symptoms such as excessive fear of the dark, crying, fear of being alone and constant worry. According to experts, parents or guardians should reassure children they are safe; encourage them to talk about their fears; emphasize they are not responsible for what happened; and hold and hug them frequently.
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.