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Mental health an overlooked casualty of disaster - part two

Source(s):  Inter Press Service International Association (IPS)

This IPS story is part two of a three-part series on the challenges faced by people living with disabilities in a world where intense storms and other natural disasters are expected to become the "new normal".

Although Hurricane Sandy made her final sweep through the Northeastern United States nearly 10 months ago, for many people the stress caused by the storm lingers, reports IPS.

According to the report, in order to cope with mental health trauma caused by disaster events, Lower Manhattan [New York City] has instituted two hotlines, the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) and Project Hope, which is part of the Lifenet New York City-wide helpline. "Typically the kind of disasters that result in a spike of calls at the national level are those that are larger in scale. The impacts tend to be greater in terms of loss of life, loss of property or the potential for psychological distress on a sizeable population," Christian Burgess, director of the Disaster Distress Hotline told IPS. "The event in and of itself is traumatic… but it’s heightened by the constant media exposure."

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the DDH experienced a 2,000 percent increase in phonecalls from people effected by the cyclone says. Melany Avrut, programme manager at Project Hope, notes that the needs of callers changed during the period following the disaster, according to the report. Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, "there were more concerns about anxiety, mood and children having trouble sleeping", she told IPS.

Dr. Mark van Ommeren, a scientist in the World Health Organization’s department of mental health and substance abuse, "suggests that stress management is a good way to prepare, as it makes going through difficult moments a slightly easier, adding that there are no concrete studies about this."

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  • Publication date 15 Aug 2013

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