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Expert offers tips for coping with the aftermath of disasters

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Thousands of hurricane victims are dealing with uncertainty, the loss of their possessions and even loved ones.

It can take a toll on their mental health. An expert in psychiatry shares tips and resources to help anyone cope with disasters.

“How to start over? How to start over?” wonders Rachel Wall.

It’s a question she and other victims are asking after Hurricane Ida damaged their homes. The Ponchatoula, Louisiana, hurricane evacuee, her husband, Javen Collins, and their three sons are receiving assistance from the MS Rapid Response Coalition with a hotel and meals.

But they are dealing with the stresses of possibly being homeless, finances, and what the future may hold.

“It’s very overwhelming. You have to pick up and start from scratch,” said Wall. “All your clothes, all your possessions are possibly ruined. We don’t know.”

“In the face of a disaster, anxiety and stress are understandable,” said Dr. Vivian Pender.

The more than 35 year practicing psychiatrist is president of the American Psychiatric Association. She said when faced with traumatic events, it’s important to talk to people about your feelings and understand that you are not alone.

“The most important thing is to take care of yourself,” said Pender. “Make sure you’re eating well and getting sleep and even getting a break, going for walks, just away from the disaster.”

The mental health expert also suggests in the aftermath taking one step at a time. Avoid alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. More may be needed if you have trouble sleeping with flash backs or nightmares, eating or concentrating.

“If those feelings are overwhelming you. You have to see someone professional,” added Pender.

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