WICHITA, Kan. -- The emotional consequences of disasters for anyone affected by the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding from May 4 to June 1, and for persons who suffered damages from the severe storms and flooding that began June 26, 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 Angee Morgan, 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."
If you or someone you know is suffering from signs of stress, you are encouraged to call the crisis counseling helpline at 1-866-327-6578.
The crisis counseling program is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and administered by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The crisis counseling grant covers Kiowa, Stafford, Edwards, and Pratt counties for DR-1699-KS and Allen, Crowley, Elk, Labette, Linn, Miami, Montgomery, Neosho and Wilson counties for DR-1711-KS.
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.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.