How Trauma Can Affect Disaster Survivors The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Points Out Early Warning Signs
Los Angeles | October 11, 2022 01:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time
Beyond the physical devastation of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters, there could be emotional and psychological trauma with long-lasting impact.
According to the National Institute of Health, the negative mental health effects of a disaster such as Hurricane Ian are not unusual, especially among children, women and the dependent elderly population who suddenly feel even more vulnerable.
“Any disaster has the potential to trigger psychological/emotional distress and even post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders,” said Dr. Michele Nealon, Psy.D. , President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “Studies show that suicide can increase 23 percent or more after a catastrophic event and minor symptoms can quickly escalate.”
Dr. Nealon says disaster survivors may experience many different signs and symptoms, including:
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Avoiding thinking or talking about places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Trouble sleeping, eating or concentrating
For children 6 years old and younger, signs and symptoms may also include:
- Re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play
- Frightening dreams that may or may not include aspects of the traumatic event
Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms, should be encouraged to check in with a mental health professional or their primary care physician to access the support they need, advises Dr. Nealon.
“For the thousands who are affected by something like Hurricane Ian--many of whom live in rural areas or are from underprivileged communities-- access to counselors and psychologists may be difficult. As natural disasters continue to increase and worsen, we need to do a better job of ensuring that survivors can get the services they need. Developing the mental health pipeline of diverse mental health practitioners is more important than ever before,” she said.
About The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Integrating theory with hands-on experience, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provides education rooted in a commitment to innovation, service, and community for thousands of diverse students across the United States and globally. Founded in 1979, the nonprofit, regionally accredited university now features campuses in iconic locations across the country (Chicago, Southern California, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Dallas) and online. To spark positive change in the world where it matters most, The Chicago School has continued to expand its educational offerings beyond the field of psychology to offer more than 30 degrees and certificates in the professional fields of health services, education, counseling, business, and more. Through its engaged professional model of education, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and an extensive network of domestic and international professional partnerships, The Chicago School’s students receive real-world training opportunities that reflect their future careers. The Chicago School is proud to be a part of TCS Education System, a nonprofit, integrated system of colleges and universities that works collaboratively to advance student success and community impact. To learn more, visit www.thechicagoschool.edu.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology