Weathering the Storm: The impact of the winter storm on mental health

Bozz District

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For many Central Texans, the power is back on and water is flowing in their homes. For some, however, the emotional distress from February’s winter storm lingers. “I looked down at this chair that I keep by my door and it was white from the light of […]

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For many Central Texans, the power is back on and water is flowing in their homes. For some, however, the emotional distress from February’s winter storm lingers.

“I looked down at this chair that I keep by my door and it was white from the light of the moon, and my body froze,” Stephanie Vela Anderson said in a Facebook message. “At that moment when I looked at that chair and thought it was snow, I was reintroduced to the effects a traumatic experience can have on your body.”

David Peters, an episcopal priest at Saint Joan of Arc Episcopal Church in Pflugerville, wrote a message on social media that read in part: “We were powerless, literally. I’ve also felt fear symptoms— fear to go places, to leave the house.”

“You are not alone,” Dr. Joanne Sotelo, a psychiatrist at Baylor, Scott & White Round Rock at the Mental Health Clinic said.

Last week, Sotelo said calls shot up 30%. Sotelo added there are steps people can take to heal.

“A good way to tell your brain that things are OK is getting back to our routine in an almost exaggerated way,” she said as one suggestion.

She recommends building structure when it comes to your daily routine, reassuring yourself you are safe and start to connect with loved ones. Those are just some of the ways Sotelo said you can begin to move forward.

While it may seem hard to get back into a routine, Sotelo said this is critical to help people recover. She also said people need to be patient. It may take some a little longer to start feeling normal again, and that is OK. Those who need professional help should contact their doctor.

“I definitely feel a sense of peace and calm coming,” Anderson said.

If you or a loved one need to speak to someone right now, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call Integral Care’s 24/7 Helpline at 512-472-HELP (4357). Both numbers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People can also call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. The 24/7 hotline offers crisis counseling to people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes how a natural disaster can take a toll on some, including children.

After the storm, the CDC suggests:

  • Provide children with opportunities to talk about what they went through or what they think about it. Encourage them to share concerns and ask questions.
  • You can help your children feel a sense of control and manage their feelings by encouraging them to take action directly related to the disaster. For example, children can help others after a disaster, including volunteering to help the community or family members in a safe environment. Children should not participate in disaster cleanup activities for health and safety reasons.
  • It is difficult to predict how some children will respond to disasters and traumatic events. Because parents, teachers, and other adults see children in different situations, it is important for them to work together to share information about how each child is coping after a traumatic event.
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