The Importance of Mental Health Disaster Preparedness – InsideSources
According to the results of a new poll the American Psychiatric Association commissioned the effects of disasters on mental health, half of Americans worry about potential loss of income, 35% worry about gun violence and 29% worry about natural disasters.
In the face of these fears, we often take practical action: pinching pennies, signing flood insurance policies, and participating in shelter-in-place exercises. But, as a psychiatrist, I have to ask: what do we do to protect our mental health when disaster strikes? Is our mental health recovery part of our disaster planning roadmap?
The response, according to the poll, was less than encouraging. After a traumatic event, 60% of us said they rely on friends and family for support. In comparison, only 42% would take care of themselves, 37% would talk openly about their feelings. Only 31% would seek help from a health or mental health professional.
The truth is that while many people will show resilience in the face of difficult circumstances, others will face negative and sometimes deadly mental health effects: issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and the Depression.
It is difficult to say what our stories will portend in the face of disaster or how we will react. But, for your mental health, there are several things you can do to prepare in advance, such as understanding the signs to watch for after disaster strikes and what to do if you feel unwell.
—If disaster strikes, take a few simple steps to stay mentally healthy. If possible, maintain a healthy diet, drink water, sleep, and exercise. These factors form the building blocks of mental health. Substance use usually doesn’t help, but relaxation techniques and social activities do.
—Stay informed, rely on credible sources, and avoid speculation and rumours. Know your limits and be careful if you’re scrolling or sticking to the 24/7 TV news cycle. Seeing too much will increase your level of distress.
—Maintain a connection with friends and family and access local community resources for your health and mental health. It is good to understand in advance what might be available and to ask your community what their mental health plans are in the event of a disaster.
— Understand that it is normal to have good days and bad days when recovering from a disaster.
While most people recover, there are red flags. Pay attention to your mood, sleep, energy level and appetite. If you feel unwell for more than a few weeks, or have difficulty functioning at work or home, or have thoughts of harming yourself or others, seek help from a healthcare professional.
Your friends and family can help you judge. If you hear things like, “You don’t seem like yourself” or “Wow, you’re grumpy,” it might even be worth asking if they’ve noticed any changes in your behavior if you’ve been around for a while. didn’t feel normal. .
With children and adolescents, be a role model and involve them. They need to know that you are there for them and that you can help them. Share Mr. Rogers’ lesson on “seeking helpers” and see what those who protect us are accomplishing. Any routines you can follow or establish will help, including family time, regular meals, and sleep schedules.
Over the past two years, we have all faced the mass catastrophe that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of us will experience other traumatic events in our lives. We can cope, especially if we face them knowing that mental health will certainly be affected. The more we know, talk about, and prepare for, the better off we will be.
For more information, visit the American Psychiatric Association’s webpage at Coping after disaster and trauma.