Why We Need to Allow Hurricane Harvey’s Victims to Tell Their Stories
Most of us have seen the horrific impact of Hurricane Harvey to the people and State of Texas in the past week. There is unprecedented damage of property, totaling over $50 billion, economic loss over $6 billion, and to date approximately 60 lives taken. It left many families homeless.
By any definition, Harvey was a catastrophic event.
The losses are overwhelming, and even with heroic rescues, an outpouring of practical support, and amazing resilience from survivors, this is an experience that will be life-dominating for some years to come. It will be challenging just to recover.
I recently posted on the needs of traumatized individuals due to Hurricane Harvey.
It is clear there is a toll from this type of catastrophic tragedy—the emotional wounding to the victims:
- The physical loss
- Fear of rising water with unknown results
- Family crises
- The compounding of this trauma with already existing traumas
- The sense of fatalism about what the future may hold, and
- The overwhelming sense of uncertainty about how to provide for one’s family
All these are complexities compound stress that is exquisitely difficult to navigate and resolve.
I read one story of social workers and psychiatrists in one of the community centers that were encouraging individuals to talk about their experiences. Some of the individuals were unable to tell the therapists where their home was. Some were severely disoriented or were extremely withdrawn.
These are classic symptoms of trauma.
And these symptoms should be expected as so many are dealing with such extreme loss and frightening experiences.
How do we help people overcome the traumatic emotional experiences?
As a country, we have a great priority towards providing for the basic needs of food, shelter, and funding to restore lost homes and communities. However, we struggle to provide for the traumatized victim’s emotional needs.
The tragedies they have experienced left them with significant post-traumatic stress.
Symptoms can appear as hyper vigilance and dissociative behaviors. Victims can appear to be mentally ill, severely depressed or disoriented.
Therapeutic interventions could be so helpful, but there are few trained professionals or resources available.
As we consider yet another hurricane (and maybe others) to follow, we have learned that people who are traumatized need to tell their story, their version of experiences and responses to such events.
If you know a victim of this or any kind of catastrophe, please encourage them to talk to a friend, pastor, or someone who hopefully is capable to deal with the extreme loss and emotional duress they are facing.
To help heal, traumatized victims need to tell their story, and as difficult as it may be. They have a raised awareness to feel heard and acknowledged. Emotionally, they need to matter to those around them as they have had their whole lives stripped away.
As they move towards the next steps of their recovery, they will need support and hope to face the future.
Trauma is real and has a significant impact on the lives of those who experience it. Trauma victims need the support of family, friends, and professionals who are trained to bring healing and recovery to victims who have suffered so deeply.
I really appreciate the availability of those professionals who have been in the community centers to be there for these fellow Americans who have had catastrophe in their lives.
We need to hear their stories and they need to tell them for their own hearing.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside