Nassau, September 11, 2019 (PAHO)—Shaking, sense of fatigue, loss of appetite, crying, sadness, fear, guilt, anger, difficulty sleeping, and grief are among the common physical and emotional responses that a person can experience for a short period following a disaster such as Hurricane Dorian, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

With the right support, the majority of people will be able to overcome these difficult experiences. This is highlighted in the Inter-agency standing committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, and PAHO’s Guidance on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Disaster Situations in the Caribbean.

Family in Fox Town, Little Abaco island.

Ten things to know about coping with stressors following a disaster *

  1. Strong reactions and feelings -such as loss of interest in daily life, sadness, irritability, and confusion, as well as difficulties concentrating- are common and understandable.
  2. With time and support, these difficulties can be overcome.
  3. Take care of yourself, so you can help others. Even during difficult times, try to reestablish your daily routines such as sleeping and eating regularly and try to take time to do things you enjoy.
  4. If you feel overwhelmed or like you cannot cope, visit a health clinic. Do not be ashamed to accept or ask for help from others.
  5. Helping others and getting help from others is one of the best ways to cope with difficulties. Listen to others and participate in regular social activities.
  6. Work with others to organize community and social activities such as religious ceremonies, community meetings, sports, arts, clean-up efforts, and other community endeavors.
  7. Take particular care of, and reach out to, those that are the most affected, including people that have been injured, elderly people, people with disabilities, and those that have lost loved ones.
  8. Children need extra attention and care after a difficult situation. Keep them safe, listen to them, speak kindly, spend time with them and provide them with opportunities to share their concerns.
  9. Avoid using alcohol and drugs. These substances make it more difficult to overcome painful feelings and anxiety.
  10. Most people will feel better over the coming months. If your distress does not decrease or gets worse, then it is important to seek help and support from a trusted colleague, friends or health professionals.

Stronger together campaign

Earlier this year, PAHO and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) launched "Stronger Together", a campaign to draw attention to the information and tools available to assist communities in better coping with the psychological impact of adverse events.

Stronger Together graphic

“Stronger Together” also tackles the stigma associated with seeking mental health and psychosocial support. It puts a special focus on vulnerable people, such as children and adolescents, women, older persons, or persons with disabilities. In addition, the gender-sensitive campaign addresses issues related to the different roles that men and women have in the family and the community, a possible rise in gender-based violence following disasters, and gender differences when accessing health services.

The awareness campaign includes an illustrated booklet on psychological first aid; public service announcements for video and radio; video testimonials, and radio jingles.

Links

— Stronger Together Campaign
— Inter-agency standing committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (in PDF)

For more information

Tanya McFall
(242) 326-7299
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


* Resource: IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings