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Dealing with the stress of a storm

  • Dr. David Allen.

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Sep 12, 2017

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The impact of a major hurricane can be as mentally damaging as it is physical, according to mental health experts.

While many residents on islands impacted by Hurricane Irma begin to focus on rebuilding, some are also dealing with the stress that goes with it.

Dozens of homes were flooded and destroyed during the Category 5 hurricane.

Ragged Island has been deemed inhabitable.

“Times like these are difficult for so many people and the impact of it is often overlooked,” psychiatrist Dr. David Allen said yesterday.

“People are traumatized by these things.

“They get flashbacks. Those sounds they have heard during the hurricane and in tornadoes will be on their minds forever.

“They will see those homes and the destruction caused forever.

“The memory stays there. Sometimes people even get agitated, they can’t sleep at night, they get a little paranoid, they get irritable and they even are on edge.

“In some cases they start to withdraw from their families and their jobs and people around them.

“It leads to isolation and that is not good.”

He said, “After the hurricane more people are on edge so you have more accidents, more crime reactions and sometimes more murders.”

Allen said after a tragedy is the perfect time to seek help, whether it be in groups or with one person who can relate to the incident or bring positivity to the situation.

When the government returns the over 1,000 evacuees from the southern Bahamas to their islands, many of them will return to badly damaged homes.

Some will return to nothing.

Hurricane Irma passed through Acklins, Crooked Island, Inagua, Long Cay, Long Island, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and San Salvador over the weekend.

There has been flooding on some islands.

Some of these islands have not fully recovered from Hurricane Joaquin in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Some residents told The Nassau Guardian they are clueless as to what their next move will be.

Yesterday, Allen said it is important to find peace from within even in the most difficult times such as these.

“Use this time to get in touch with your prayer life,” he advised.

“Take a verse that is calming and repeat it to yourself.

“You have to grab some kind of inspiring verse.

“I use scriptures because it is the word of God, but you can use inspirational quotes.

“They strengthen people and they help to untraumatize you.”

He said, “[This] is a terrible time. We have to calm ourselves.

“Find a place you can talk and find people you can relate to.

“Jaw, jaw stops war, war.

“If we can talk about things, we can fix many problems.”

Allen said Bahamians from all islands need to come together to give emotional and mental support to those who have been impacted by the storm.

“Trauma is hard,” he said.

“But trauma sometimes forces us to come together as a community.”

Allen has visited shelters in New Providence speaking with residents who were evacuated from their homes.

On Sunday, he spoke to over 100 evacuees at New Providence Community Centre (NPCC), which is his home church.

“I have listened to their stories and some of them have been through so much,” Allen said.

“We have our family program and People Helping People.

“We will be talking with families from these islands to assist them in terms of counseling.”

Allen advised that anyone in need of assistance in the form of counseling to call 698-0155 for assistance.



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