As a native Houstonian I have survived my fair share of Hurricane's and Tropical Storms. I have survived Tropical Storm Allison, supported the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and survived Hurricane Rita.
Hurricane Harvey has been a natural disaster like no other Hurricane or tropical storm I have seen or survived.
A friend in Washington State reports their local meteorologists report that it would take 101 days of Washington rain to equal the amount of rain Houston received in 24 hours.
Another comparison to help you understand the devastation (taken from a post circulated various times on Facebook): The greater metropolitan area is circled by the Grand Parkway - which is 170 miles long. That makes the area of the circle inside the Grand Parkway over 2200 sq. miles. 2200 sq. miles of densely occupied, urban and suburban areas with over 7 million residents. Imagine if the entire state of Delaware, with twice the population of Manhattan, was under water. That's Houston.
Natural disasters will lead to significant amount of stress, anxiety, depression and grief. It is absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed, angry, grief stricken, confused, lost and without an anchor. So many have lost their entire life. There is no right or wrong way for you or those who are survivors to be feeling right now.
As a survivor of Hurricane Harvey you can support your mental health by talking about the event with a trained professional within 24 to 72 hours if possible. Many emergency shelters will have access to trained clinical professionals who can help you through this very difficult and challenging debriefing. The act of debriefing allows for the emotion to be released from the trauma that you have experienced.
Be kind in your self talk. Breathe. Deep breaths. Take care of your basic needs such as eating, showering and finding a safe shelter to recharge your soul and energy.
(The Harris Center) Public Affairs Dept have reported that Magellan has opened a 24 hour Crisis Line for all residents of Texas. Toll free number accessed free, confidential counseling. 1-800-327-7451.
Long term consider seeking professional help from a psychologist, clinical social worker or LPC who can continue to help you manage the grief related to the loss and trauma you have experienced.
If you are a friend or family member of a survivor you can support them by listening to their stories. Hold them if they want to be held.
Ask them – How can I best support you? Many times they will tell you exactly what they need. Which may include being alone – which is okay – give them space to grieve and process their loss.
Help them in identifying a safe space for them to recover. After a natural disaster simply a dry and warm place will be suffice to start. Everything and anything counts.
If you have been separated from your loved ones and are waiting to hear about them surround yourself by those who can support you. Talk about your loved one. Allow yourself to lean into feeling vulnerable. Ask for help. Ask for what you need. Remember to care for yourself in the midst of this as you will need to be ready to care for your loved one.
Lastly, be kind. Be kind always. We are all in this together. We are the helpers. The coming weeks and months will be hard from so many. Find the best way you can help - even if it simply a hug or a nod of acknowledgement of the struggle we have all just survived.
Additional resources (I will add to the list as they are brought to my attention):
3 months of free online therapy with a Licensed therapist via BetterHelp
Free online support group with Licensed TalkSpace Therapists
List of Shelters for Hurricane Harvey Survivors
Coping After a Disaster
How to Talk to your Child about the Disaster
Dialysis Resources for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey
ALS Resources for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey
HIV Resources for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey
Become a Disaster Red Cross Mental Health Volunteer
Ways to Help Survivors
If I can help you with additional strategies or ongoing support, contact me at 281.940.5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org