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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Storm After The Storm: Disaster's Mental Toll

When the evacuation order came as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida, Maria Mendez followed steps she knew well.

"We got the house ready," says Mendez, a 68-year-old English professor from Cutler Bay, about 30 miles south of downtown Miami. The family put up the hurricane shutters, wrapped paintings and other valuables, and moved the patio furniture inside.

Suddenly, however, Maria ran out of the house.

"I opened the gate and started running," she says.

Her husband, Alfredo, and daughter Ana led her back to the house, calmed her down, and the family safely evacuated.

In hindsight, Maria knows what was behind her need to escape. Irma had triggered a reliving of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, when they lost their house, cars, and boat. During that storm, the family had holed up in the house, terrified as the bathroom ceiling collapsed and the roof blew away.

"We were sure we were going to die," she remembers. The psychologist who diagnosed her posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after Hurricane Andrew had said to expect unusual reactions when disaster strikes.

With seemingly endless recent disasters -- hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean; wildfires out West; and now, major earthquakes in Mexico -- the immediate concern of the ones affected is survival: eating, drinking, and finding a place to sleep.

But soon after, the mental health fallout can start.


1 comment:

lmclain said...

Puerto Rico.
Comparatively tiny.
Now we get a preview of what life will be like if an EMP burst is done over the USA.
Only there aren't enough trucks to bring everyone food and water and generators in PR. Think about how nasty things will get.
And violent.
Buy more ammo.