Natural Disasters Impacts on Mental Health

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
― Elizabeth Edwards

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Disaster

In the Caribbean, we have serene views and majestic landscapes but that can change quickly when a natural disaster strikes. Some common natural disasters in the Caribbean are earthquakes, hurricanes, storm surge, tsunamis, and volcanic activity. The Caribbean has been battered for years by hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic activity, which have torn families apart, disrupted daily life, and cause emotional distress. A recent natural disaster is some volcanic activity in St. Vincent, the people are living in fear and are living in a time where they do not know what the future holds. The residents of St. Vincent are the only ones being impacted but the families on different islands are dealing with the trauma and emotional distress.

The effects of disasters range but a common issue is the negative impact on the affected population. When a natural disaster strikes there is always social and economic losses as well as individuals and communities experiencing mental instability which may lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. “There is no comparison to the emotional sufferings a person undergoes post-disaster” (Makwana, 2019). When a hurricane or other natural disaster occurs even if there is time to prepare of it, it still leaves the victims in a state of shock.

Never Truly Prepared

No matter how much we tell ourselves that we are prepared for a natural disaster we never truly are. It can happen in the blink of an eye or it can linger and wreak havoc for days to weeks. Some of the effects of a natural disaster are emotional instability, stress reactions, anxiety, trauma, and other mental and emotional concerns. These psychological effects have a huge impact on the communities affected and each individual responds and experiences the event differently.

Common Reactions

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Disorientation; difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Apathy and emotional numbing
  • Nightmares and reoccurring thoughts about the event
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling powerless
  • Changes in eating patterns; loss of appetite or overeating
  • Crying for “no apparent reason”
  • Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
  • Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Coping Skills

  • Talk about it
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Take care of yourself
  • Limit exposure to images of the disaster
  • Find time for activities you enjoy
  • Take one thing at a time
  • Do something positive
  • Avoid drugs and excessive drinking
  • Ask for help when you need it

References

Makwana N. (2019). Disaster and its impact on mental health: A narrative review. Journal of family medicine and primary care8(10), 3090–3095. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_893_19

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