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Published:December 4th, 2006 11:27 EST
FEMA  Coping With Stress After A Disaster

FEMA Coping With Stress After A Disaster

By SOP newswire

ALEXANDRIA, La. -- The emotional consequences of disasters, such as the severe storms and flooding that began Oct. 16, can be far-reaching and long lasting. Stress can surface in many forms and it often appears weeks or months after the traumatic event, mental health experts say.

"Dealing with problems caused by the disaster wears on people," said Neal Fudge, deputy state coordinating officer. "Keeping stress levels down as the recovery process continues is no easy task. We see more physical stress-related symptoms when people are exhausted."

Disaster victims are likely to experience at least one of several emotional responses: anger, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity and/or increased alcohol or drug use.

Mental health experts suggest a number of ways to relieve the symptoms of emotional distress:

  • Talk about your feelings with family, friends and neighbors. Friends and family are good medicine, and sharing common experiences helps people overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
  • Get back into daily routines as soon as you can and try to maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
  • Get some physical exercise every day.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to emotional stress after a disaster, including excessive fear of the dark, crying, fear of being alone and constant worry. Reassure children that they are safe. Encourage them to talk about their fears; emphasize that they are not responsible for what happened; hold and hug them frequently.

If you or someone you know is suffering from signs of stress, you are encouraged to call the state crisis counseling helpline at Louisiana Spirit Helpline, 225-924-1586 .

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.