The Elder Care Community Council of Franklin County, ECCC, is sharing information from Darcy Abbott, the mental health coordinator for disaster recovery for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Through its Hope for Healing Florida initiative, the state’s Department of Elder Affairs is prioritizing and understands the great need for mental health services during and after a disaster.
Disasters, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or a hurricane, do not discriminate where they occur or who they target. When disasters strike, local and individual mental health resources can be affected and unable to provide immediate relief to those experiencing distress. Disasters can take a toll on mental health – and it’s important to prioritize the mental health recovery process the same way we prioritize the physical recovery process.
During the initial phase of a disaster, we can experience fear, shock, panic, suffer from disbelief, or feel disoriented. The type and size of a disaster can affect how long the recovery process may be, and the desire to return to a sense of normalcy can cause feelings of anger, frustration, or depression. These are normal responses to coping with an abnormal event.
Recovery is the most challenging phase of dealing with the reality of a disaster. During recovery, it’s important to maintain resiliency. The following tips are simple, but can support mental health during and after a disaster:
Take care of your physical health. Eat nutritious meals when you can, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, and exercise daily. Practice deep breathing. Connect with nature. Get outside and be present in the moment. Reach out and talk to friends and family daily. Talk to people you trust about your feelings. Do an activity that is fun for you every day. Prioritize and focus on what is in your control. Make a gratitude list every day. Show compassion for yourself and others.
Ultimately, always take advantage of professional support if needed. Sometimes it can feel like we are not making progress in our recovery and feelings can be overwhelming.
If you or others need information on basic resources to assist with the disaster recovery process, call your local 2-1-1 community resource center, which can connect you with someone to talk about transportation, food, housing, healthcare, and crisis counseling.
The National Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800- 985-5990) is also available 24/7 to provide immediate crisis counseling and support those affected by disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Technical Assistance Center is also one of the best websites to find additional resources for disaster survivors and outreach workers. The website is available at SAMHSA.gov/DTAC.
Thank you for your support of ECCC. Without you, we could not do all we are doing to assure that elders are taken care of right in our community. Call us at 850-370-0116 if you or someone you know needs help, to volunteer, or to find out more about supporting ECCC, which is a 501(c)(3) organization bridging the gaps in services to those over age 55 in Franklin County. ECCC, PO Box 335, Eastpoint, FL 32328.
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Hope for Healing can help the elderly