The Trauma Impacts of Hurricanes – 15 years ago, I would never have thought about something like that. The trauma impact of Hurricanes?
I used to think that trauma was something that happened in an automobile accident or something like that. “The crash took place at ______ mph and the driver passed away due to blunt force trauma to the head.” That kind of trauma.
But there is another trauma. Actually there are two but really many more types of trauma. For now, we’ll leave it at two:
– Single event trauma – something happened and for some reason the foundations of that person’s life changed for ever. The sudden death of a loved one. A major car accident. The entire destruction of a person’s home, town, school and place of being and worshipping. Those are some of the type of single even trauma’s that can cause long term impact. Oh and having to evacuate in the middle of the night and spending 30 hours in the car, yeah that’s pretty traumatic too.
– Long term trauma – the trauma that comes from a life altering experience. If someone is in a car accident and loses a leg, that is a long term trauma. If someone loses everything they own in a natural disaster and it takes a life time to rebuild, that’s trauma.
If someone is put in a situation where their entire life and their entire world as they knew it has been changed, that would be trauma.
If someone is put in a situation where their family structure has changed and it is not something they have control of, that is trauma.
If 95% of the buildings in your country were destroyed by Hurricane Irma and now there are more hurricanes that MIGHT be heading in your direction, how do you prepare when you lost everything? How do you survive anther hurricane if there is no place to shelter? That is trauma.
So what does that mean? For Florida? For Houston? For Barbuda? For……..
One of the things that makes trauma so hard to care for and help recover from is that it often can show up in different ways with different people.
But, to handle the trauma well, the schools need to be educated, the churches need to be educated, the families need to be educated. And that doesn’t even sound the call for educating the medical professionals.
What are some signs of trauma to watch for? These are by no means an exclusive list but more of an unofficial starting point……
– if small issues become big issues without a known reason. For instance, someone who never had a problem with thunderstorms now spends the entire storm under their bed in tears.
– the three main responses to issues when they come up are known as the three “F”s – Fight, Flight or Freeze.
– Fight – pretty self explanatory – if you don’t feel comfortable, if you feel scared, lash out and attack the issue.
– Flight – run away from the cause of the stress. “I’m never going to ____ again, because the last time I was there, Johnnny tried to throw a baseball at my head.
– Freeze – paralyzed with fear. Not able to move and to remove themselves from the problem because they are too paralyzed with fear.
I’m concerned that with this recent batch of really bad weather and with more appearing to be on its way soon, we are going to see a significant increase in the amount of trauma people are dealing with and a significant strain on the mental health system (if there is one) as people try to (hopefully) get help.
So what can you and I do?
1. Pray for the victims and first responders of these recent and ongoing hurricanes.
2. Support your local mental health agency.
3. If you have someone who has been through something and seems to “overreact” to minor things, empathize with them, acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that either you are there for them or that the situation isn’t as bad as they might think (i.e. “I just checked the radar and the thunderstorm is just a thunderstorm, not a hurricane and it should be over in 20 minutes.
4. Don’t try to tell them that their feeling isn’t real. Their feeling is real. But if they will listen to you, tell them that what they are scared/worried/traumatized about is not going to be an issue. “Mary, I can understand why thunder would bother you after your house was flooded but this rain is supposed to be done in 20 minutes and we will not get enough to be more than a flower watering storm.
Trauma, it’s not just for soldiers any more. Please pray for the trauma victims all over the world – whether from war, from terror, from weather, from political unrest, from familial problems, from a variety of political unrest and struggles.
And Harvey, Irma and now Maria aren’t making it any better.