Natural disasters are an unfortunate but inevitable occurrence no matter where you live. With the end of hurricane season comes the anxiety of wondering when the next big storm will hit. Whether you waited in anticipation as Dorian crawled his way slowly toward the Florida coast or you got holed up inside for days from a Nor’easter, most of us have experienced some natural disaster in at least one point in our lives. Although most of the focus is on the physical destruction caused by these intense shows of Mother Nature’s strength, what about the mental health issues after natural disasters? What does that devastating earthquake do to the mental health of the people who were affected?
As a mental health treatment center in Florida, we are certainly no stranger to natural disasters. We know that whether you lived through a catastrophic event or were lucky enough to experience a more mild version, the effects of natural disasters on mental health can linger.
You see videos of houses torn apart and cars overturned, but what you don’t often see is what happens to people mentally long after the storm is gone. As it turns out, natural disasters and mental health are more intertwined than many people think.
Mental health issues after natural disasters are one thing, but even before the natural disaster hits, the anticipation for it can be awful. In the event of blizzards or hurricanes, you typically have time to prepare, but could this anticipation be doing more harm than good?
Watching images of the destruction caused by a storm headed your way is far from relaxing. That feeling of impending doom headed right toward you is accompanied by stress, anxiety, panic, and even depression. Just think about all of the people fighting in the grocery store for that last case of water or loaf of bread. One study found that longer periods of stress (such as anticipation for a natural disaster) can lead to heightened anxiety and eventually mood disorders.1 Even if the impact is not as bad as predicted, watching the news before disaster strikes may be a contributing factor to the effect of natural disasters on mental health, especially for those who already struggle with anxiety. If you or a loved one is experiencing severe anxiety before a storm even hits, you may want to consider our anxiety treatment in South Florida.
Not only can anticipation cause mental health problems, but the mental health issues after natural disasters can be severe. One study found that the number of people seeking mental health resources doubled after a devastating firestorm in their area.2 These trends tend to hold true no matter the natural disaster. Another study found that about 55% of Puerto Ricans were suffering from PTSD six months after Hurricane Maria.3
First responders are also a good example of what happens to mental health after disaster. They deal with traumatic events like natural disasters on a regular basis and are prone to mental health issues at a higher rate than the average population. One survey found that 44.5% of first responders in the study had clinically significant symptoms for one or more mental health disorders compared to the general population that was at 10.5%.4 We even offer mental health treatment for first responders as a result of the high occurrence of these issues.
Not only can one of these traumatic events wreak emotional havoc on its victims, but they can also lead to higher rates of addiction and drug abuse because of it. One study found that before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the annual hospitalization rate for substance abuse disorders in the area was 7.13 per 1,000, but after this rate increased to 9.65 per 1,000.5 For those people who are experiencing both mental health issues and a substance abuse problem, our dual diagnosis treatment in Boca may be able to help.
Whether you have experienced mental health issues after a natural disaster yourself or your loved one struggles with poor mental health in general, let us help. At Banyan Mental Health, we work with people who suffer from various mental health disorders.