Recovering From a Disaster -- Your Mental State

The emotional toll you experience after having been through a disaster is just as devastating, if not more so, than the physical damages to your home and property and financial loss.

Children and the elderly seem to be particularly affected in the aftermath of disasters. After 9-11, it was realized that individuals who are exposed to the disaster only through "second hand" means, such as media coverage, can also be affected.

Crisis counseling programs often include community outreach, consultation, and education. FEMA and the state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis counseling assistance to help people cope with and recover from disaster. If you feel you need assistance-get help.

FEMA recommends you need to be aware of signs that you or someone you love may need emotional counseling to help in coping with the stress of a disaster.

Things to remember when trying to understand disaster events.

Woman standing on a wooden bridge.
  • No one who sees a disaster is untouched by it.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities will help you to heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • We each have different needs and different ways of coping.
  • It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain. However, nothing good is accomplished by hateful language or actions.

Signs that adults need crisis counseling/stress management assistance.

  • Difficulty communicating thoughts.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Difficulty maintaining balance.
  • Easily frustrated.
  • Increased use of drugs/ alcohol.
  • Limited attention span.
  • Poor work performance.
  • Headaches/stomach problems.
  • Tunnel vision/muffled hearing.
  • Colds or flu-like symptoms.
  • Disorientation or confusion.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Reluctance to leave home.
  • Depression, sadness.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Mood-swings and crying easily.
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
  • Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone.

Ways to ease disaster related stress.

  • Talk with someone about your feelings-anger, sorrow, and other emotions-even though it may be difficult.
  • Seek help from professional counselors who deal with post-disaster stress.
  • Don't hold yourself responsible for the disastrous event or be frustrated because you feel that you cannot help directly in the rescue work.
  • Take steps to promote your own physical and emotional healing by staying active in your daily life patterns or by adjusting them. This healthy outlook will help you and your household (e.g., healthy eating, rest, exercise, relaxation, meditation).
  • Maintain a normal household and daily routine, limiting demanding responsibilities of you and your household.
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Participate in memorials, rituals, and use of symbols as a way to express feelings.
  • Use existing support groups of family, friends, and church.
  • Establish a family emergency plan. Feeling there is something you can do can be very comforting.