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Mental Health Issues After the Storms

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With this week’s severe storms and flooding, residents may be experiencing more than usual anxiety and stress, according to the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.
Residents who are feeling emotional and in need of support can call the Townhall II 24-hour Helpline at 330-678-HELP (4357) or 1-866-449-8518. There is also TTY for deaf and hearing impaired at these local numbers. The helpline is funded through local levies overseen by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.
“There are certain reactions that are the consequence of traumatic events no matter how big or how small,” according to Dr. Joel Mowrey, the executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board. “For some people a flooded basement can devastating or if you lose your crops or your business is damaged, those also can affect you very deeply.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common reactions to a disaster or traumatic event include feeling numb, dazed or confused, anxious, sad, helpless or happy to be alive. Individual responses can include difficulty sleeping, paying attention or eating, short tempers, bad memories or dreams and becoming easily angered.
“These responses are normal to living through a disaster,” Mowrey said. “Learning about signs and symptoms can help families, individuals and organizations more forward.”
Children often experience different effects than an adult survivor. How the child responds to stress will depend on his or her age and how much the child witnessed. Talking about the event may scare the child even more, but falsely minimizing the situation will not end his or her concerns.
Due to children’s fears for their safety and sometimes feeling responsible for a situation, it is important to reassure them they will be safe and the event was not their fault, Mowrey explained.
“What parents and caregivers need to remember is that children and teens may not be able to verbalize what is bothering them so you will see changes in behavior,” he added.
For more information about potential reactions and ways to help children cope with disaster, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/pdf/helping-parents-cope-with-disaster.pdf
If you are unable to access the information online, call the Mental Health & Recovery Board at 330-673-1756, ext. 201, for printed materials.
No matter the reaction, the effects will take time to heal. A survivor of a disaster or traumatic event can take action to return his or her life back to normal. Following the normal daily routine, eating healthy, exercising regularly, staying busy, accepting help and talking about feelings will aid in the recovery process.
The CDC has additional resources regarding stress at http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/coping-with-stress-2013-508.pdf.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a Disaster Distress Helpline that provides 24/7, year-round crisis counseling and support at 1-800-985-5990 and TTY for deaf/hearing impaired at 1-800-846-8517. You can text TalkWithUs to 66746 or visit at http://www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/.
If you or someone you know is having continuing trouble dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, ask for or suggest outside help. Talk to a counselor, doctor or faith community leader. Call the Mental Health & Recovery Board at 330-673-1756, ext. 201, for referral information to local community-based agencies.
If you are worried that there is a risk of suicide, call the 24-hour Helpline at Townhall II at 330-678-HELP (4357).
One way to reduce anxiety and stress related to natural disasters is to be prepared. Portage County has launched a new local preparedness program through Portage County Commissioners and the Portage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Visit Portage Prepares at www.co.portage.oh.us/portageprep to learn more about disaster preparedness in Portage County.
Portage Prepares is a county-wide, long-term education program for preparing the county’s communities to meet the challenges of weather, disasters, health emergencies and other types of incidents in order to be safe, reduce risks of injury and reduce property destruction.
Some of the links on the page include how to make a disaster safety plan, how to make a kit for evacuation, Ready.gov and FloodSmart.gov. There are links to download fact sheets about disasters that are relevant to Northeast Ohio.

The Mental Health & Recovery Board is a partner in helping to provide the site. Other partners include the Portage County Health Department, City of Kent Health Department, Robinson Memorial Hospital, Portage County Information Technology Services, Media representative Bob Long, Dr. John Staley of the Kent State University College of Public Health, Portage County Township Trustees and Portage/Summit Chapters of the American Red Cross.

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Amie Cajka is the Director of Community Relations for the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.The Mental Health & Recovery Board is a county agency that fund, plans and monitors public mental health and substance abuse treatment services for Portage County residents. Last year, the board invested in services that helped more than 7,000 children, teens and adults. The board also funds the 24-hour crisis intervention services which handle more than 39,000 contacts each year. The agency is primarily funded by local levies. To contact the board, call 330-673-1756.