Trauma Experts Discuss Coping With Emotional Effects of Katrina - Rita
The good news
for Hurricane Katrina survivors is that most have resilience and skills
that will not result in long-term effects or mental health disorders,
according Menninger Clinic trauma experts in Houston. In the immediate
future, many evacuees may experience a range of symptoms. Recognizing
these responses and knowing they are normal can be reassuring.
- Intense and unpredictable feelings
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Flashbacks or nightmares
and strained relationships with persons around you – your family,
your friends or others with whom you fled the wrath of the hurricane
- Problems sleeping or eating
effects of stress such as headache, fast-beating heart, nausea and
aggravated symptoms of a preexisting health condition
will respond in his or her own way to the effects of Katrina. Persons
who have been through previous traumatic losses or events may
experience more intense reactions and need more time to recover.
balance between grieving for losses and focusing on attaining basic
human needs with participating in activities that take the mind off of
intense feelings can help restore evacuees' well being.
Finding meaning and benevolence in the world will provide hope necessary for recovering from Katrina's effects.
accustomed to thinking of traumatized persons as survivors rather than
victims. Yet mere surviving is not enough: we must aspire to thrive,"
said Jon Allen, Ph.D., senior Menninger psychologist, author of Coping
With Trauma and co-author of Restoring Hope and Trust.
- Allow time to mourn the losses. Expect volatile emotions. Start a journal.
- Relieve stress in healthy ways. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise relieves stress.
- Establish a routine for yourself even at a shelter or the home of someone you're staying with.
- Coping with trauma requires hope. Borrow hope from others by talking to counselors or clergy.
- Find confidantes. Talk about your experience in whatever way you feel comfortable.
- Start to actively solve problems. Seek out and take advantage of relief provided.
- Engage with children in play or recreation. They may be silently worried they will lose you, too.
- Respond to
children's questions in terms they will understand. Reassure them
repeatedly that you care about them and you understand their fears.
& giving to survivors overcomes helplessness Americans viewing the
death and destruction brought to us by the media may have intense
feelings of helplessness or feelings of sadness. Plan a way to lend a
hand. Disasters and people in need provide an opportunity to volunteer
for the first time in your life, to teach children in the family the
value of giving and to provide assistance requested by the agencies,
churches and synagogues, municipalities and charitable groups who are
providing aid to the survivors.
"We may not
know these survivors personally, but we share the human condition.
Philanthropy is a powerful healing agent," said Daniel Hoover, Ph.D.,
psychologist with the Menninger Adolescent Treatment Program.
Impact of Media Stories on Americans
also notes that the repetitive images of the effects of Katrina can
have the same impact as seeing the 9-11 terrorist attack aftermath. He
- Reduce news watching. Taking breaks will be healthy.
- For children, expose them only to news that is appropriate for their age and development. Reassure them accordingly.
- Be thankful. Take stock of important relationships. Regain your perspective because there are many good things in your life.
- Talk with
family members about what you would do in a disaster. Where would you
keep critical documents? Are you adequately insured? Do you have a
rendezvous plan if your family became separated?
Psychological Effects of Trauma Are Treatable
stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression, self- harm,
binging and purging, and chemical dependency may result from surviving
Katrina or another trauma event. For more than a decade, Menninger
clinicians have been developing and applying interventions for
individuals with trauma- related disorders.
"Our goal in
processing trauma is to make sense of trauma as a meaningful
experience. The goal is not to rid the mind of traumatic memories, but
rather to make it more bearable to have the memories in mind when
inevitable reminders occur. A trusting environment for treatment,
social support, a safe place to express emotions, a daily routine, and
an understanding of the effects of trauma and treatment are so
important to trauma recovery," Dr. Allen said.
unrealistic to expect that you can bleach the trauma out of your mind.
What treatment can help you do is learn how to cope with the
experience, with the memories and to live in the present," added Lisa
Lewis, Ph.D., Menninger psychologist and co-author of Restoring Hope
cited in the news release are Menninger mental health professionals and
faculty members of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry &
Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.
Clinic in Houston, Texas, is an international psychiatric center for
the treatment of adolescents and adults. For more information on the
Menninger Clinic, visit www.menningerclinic.com.