Floods, earthquakes – scenes of devastation after natural disasters may affect us in the long term, even if we haven’t experienced them firsthand. According to Charles Figley, Paul Henry Kurzweg Chair in Disaster Mental Health at the Tulane School of Social Work, there’s little research on the lasting emotional effects of natural disasters.
But “there are predictable psychosocial and emotional immediate and long-term reactions, for example: phobias.” In the case of floods, “there are more phobias about rain, about standing water” and more, he said.
Patrick Bordnick, dean of the School of Social Work, saw his Houston home flood twice in less than a year. “This was a surreal experience … these are not things that most people normally experience,” he said. “For the first time, we were in the position to receive aid and assistance after being the ones normally to provide assistance. It can be extremely uncomfortable asking for help.”
“After a disaster, some people may be angry or sad, but some may not show any emotion.”
Patrick Bordnick, dean of the School of Social Work
No matter your degree of involvement in a disaster – you or a friend lost a home, you helped others, or you watched it on TV, Figley and Bordnick offer some guidance on how to minimize feelings of helplessness and despair:
“After a disaster, some people may be angry or sad, but some may not show any emotion,” said Bordnick.
“It’s a humbling experience, and we need to be humble in front of it,” Figley added.