The recent wildfires in Central Texas have made national news and have torched thousands of acres, destroyed hundreds of homes, and resulted in loss of life.
Much has been reported on the devastation caused by these wildfires. However, not much has been said about the emotional toll of disasters such as this one. The effects often can be more traumatic and long-lasting than the financial strains of the destruction and loss of home, business or personal property.
The effects of disaster can produce fear, confusion and uncertainty in daily life. Strong and varied emotional reactions to such an event are natural. Everyone has their own ways of coping with stressful situations. Resilience – the ability to adapt well to life’s ups and downs – can help people manage stress and feelings of anxiety.
Here are some key points to keep in mind:
• Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way.
• Profound sadness, grief and anger are normal reactions to natural disasters.
• It’s normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends.
• Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
• Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
• Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
Recovering from a disaster is a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. Contact local faith-based organizations, volunteer agencies or professional counseling organizations for counseling. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength and a positive step toward recovery.
To learn more about the effects of natural disaster and how to recover, visit these websites:
• General advice on steps to take after disaster occurs in order to begin getting your home, your community, and your life back to normal. www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/after.shtm
• Disaster Mental Health Primer: Key Principles, Issues and Questions
• Dealing with the Effects of Trauma—A Self-Help Guide
• How Can I Help My Children Cope Following a Disaster?
The Hogg Foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. The foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research, and public education.