The Effects Of A Hurricane On Survivors’ Mental Health

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HOUSTON, TEXAS (CBSMiami) — Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey create an enormous amount of stress and anxiety for survivors.

Thalia Castro, 18, is at the Convention Center in Houston with her 1-year-old son and three toddler nieces and nephews. Her family was rescued Monday and airlifted from their home to safety.

“It was scary. The scariest part was whenever I was just swinging in the air until they wheeled me in,” said Castro.

Disasters like Hurricane Harvey can of course take an emotional toll on people who live through the distressing situation. Research shows most recover but others can suffer psychological disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, anxiety and depression.

“I’m looking for anyone who is tearful, who is having panic attacks, who is looking anxious, nervous,” said Dr. Sophia Banu, a psychiatrist with Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Banu and a team of psychiatrists from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are trying to help people cope with the trauma. They’ve set up a table at the convention center for evacuees who may need a refill on their medication or someone to talk to.

“We want to make sure that there’s somebody here for them to hear their stories…to make them feel safe and process what they have been through,” said Dr. Banu.

Common reactions and responses to disaster include intense or unpredictable feelings, changes in thoughts and behavior, and physical symptoms from stress like headaches, nausea and chest pain.

Castro said she’s coping as best she can but she didn’t sleep the first night at the convention center.

“The hardest part I would say is not being with my family. Being here by myself because I don’t feel safe here,” said Castro.

She is hoping to relocate with relatives soon so they can start rebuilding their lives.

Psychiatrists say it is important for parents to monitor their children following a disaster like this for signs they may be having trouble coping such as becoming more moody, anxious, unable to sleep and restlessness.

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