It seems irresponsible to talk in-depth about flood recovery without addressing the toll this takes on mental health. A natural disaster is traumatic, and a trauma response is normal. Trauma can make it difficult to keep track of important information, so write down important info as much as you can. Ask for help with even the small things and accept all help. Remember that emotional healing after a flood can take just as long or longer than property recovery.
Here are some tips for mitigating stress:
- Set a manageable schedule. There is likely much to do and you won’t get it all done in a day, week, or even a month. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and give yourself time to rest.
- Eat and sleep well. Eat regular, nutritious meals and try to keep a normal sleep schedule to maintain your energy and mood.
- Allow emotional reactions to happen. Let your feelings process by crying, talking, creating art, or whatever works for you. Find a way to process feelings instead of holding them in.
- Watch for fatigue. Don’t overdo it – physically or emotionally.
- Work together. Don’t take everything on alone. Look to family, neighbors, and the rest of your community for mutual support.
- Access resources if you notice signs of stress or PTSD.
Common emotional reactions of children and families exposed to a flood:
- Increased feelings of insecurity, unfairness, anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, despair, worry about the future, and dread of a flood reoccurring
- Reactions of distress and anxiety when reminded of the flood
- Believing myths or folklore as to the cause of the flood
- Disruptive behaviors, irritability, temper tantrums, agitation, or hyperactivity
- Clinging-dependent behaviors, especially when separating from parents or caregivers
- Avoiding people or situations
- Irrational fears (phobias)
- Disturbances in sleep or appetite
- Somatic symptoms, such as stomachaches or headaches
- Increased concerns regarding the safety of family members, friends, and loved ones
- School-based problems, with decreased motivation and a decline in school performance
Adolescents may respond differently than younger children in a flood or other natural disaster. Some may come to believe they will not live long and may:
- Withdraw socially
- Become angry or irritable
- Behave in risky ways
- Have conflicts with authority
Mental Health Resources
- Crisis Intervention of Houston: 832-416-1177 (24/7 crisis counseling and info/referral)
- Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD: 713-970-7000 (24/7)
- DePelchin Children’s Center: 713-730-2335 (mental health services for children)
- Harvey Crisis Counseling Line: 832-981-3233
- Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
- Hand in Hand Parenting Presentation: Helping families with traumatic events
Next step: General Clean Up Tips