Long Term Mental Health Problems Following Natural Disasters

   In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it is important that we recognize the effects that are caused by such natural disasters, especially the mental health problems that are bound to come about and how the victims of disasters such as this are going to have a hard time moving forward for some time.

   Mental health problems are amongst the most common side effects when it comes to natural disasters. Due to all the devastation and massive loss, disasters can cause issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. However, the issue in this is that these mental health problems rarely occur during the early stages after the emergency. They tend to become more apparent as time goes on and are sometimes overlooked in such emergencies. The reason for this is that initially, these disasters can cause a majority of the population to suffer from grief and shock. So once that stage is over, it is usually expected that people will make an attempt to return to their normal lives and when they are unable to do so, it is because of these mental health problems emerging and affecting their everyday lives. Other disorders and problems that can come up include, acute trauma disorder, anxiety and anxiety related disorders, panic attacks, night terrors, and other mood disorders. These effects usually are not permanent when the persons affected seek immediate treatment and they normally last anywhere from a few months to a few years in some cases. However, if they go undetected and untreated, they can lead to becoming full mental illnesses.

   On the bright side, there are ways to minimize the damage to mental health after these natural disasters. The first step is to be aware of the signs and be able to recognize that a problem is there. Ignoring or not recognizing these issues can only lead to them becoming more permanent. There are many programs available to help with dealing with the mental effects of a disaster. Some of these organizations include the World Health Organization, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organization, FEMA, along with other agencies. Seeking out supportive and trauma counseling immediately after the disaster can help curb long term mental health damage, and they can continue long after the disaster has subsided. So as we think about physical effects of disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, it is also imperative that we remember the mental health issues such as PTSD and depression that can emerge after these disasters are over and understand that if left untreated can cause long term mental illnesses down the line.

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