News Article Details

Experts see increase in anxiety, depression following flooding

St. Joseph News-Press - 6/8/2019

Jun. 8--Recent flooding in the area not only destroys property and homes, but it also can take a devastating toll on a community's mental health.

Kristina Hannon, Family Guidance Center co-CEO said research shows that whenever there is significant flooding in an area which causes displacement, loss of property and in some cases loss of employment, experts see a significant increase in depressive and anxiety symptoms.

"Those events can really challenge the psycho-social resilience of not just individuals but of families, of communities," Hannon said.

Hannon said two of the big protective factors in dealing with the stresses from flooding are social cohesion and a multi-sector response, meaning the community as a whole helps the victims.

"Having a situation where you have faith communities together or you have multiple families coming together or nonprofit community coming out in support of these things can help," she said.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, climate change and associated natural disasters like flooding or prolonged droughts have been associated with elevated levels of anxiety depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Extreme weather events have also been associated with increases in aggressive behavior and domestic violence an increases in hospital and emergency room admissions for people with mental health conditions.

Some people are more vulnerable to the potential impacts of flooding and other climate disasters such as children, the elderly, the chronically ill, people with mobility impairments, pregnant women and people with mental illnesses.

Hannon added farmers and people in agricultural settings to that list.

"If you're a person whose sole job is as a farmer, you haven't just lost your home -- you've lost your employment. You've lost grain and other commodities you may have stored, and you've lost livestock, which is expensive to replace. And then again livestock can be a source of sustenance for a family," Hannon said.

Flooding also can have a mental health impact on children, Hannon added. They too can experience depression and anxiety symptom.

"One of the reasons is children take their cues from their parents and partly how parents are handling the flooding and the losses, that plays out in how our children are going to handle them," Hannon said. "So my advice I would give out to individuals is to talk to your kids honestly about flooding but also talk to your kids cautiously about flooding. This is an opportunity to talk about a back-up plan."

Hannon said for children who don't live in flood zones, parents can discuss with them ways they can help families and other children affected by the floods by donating clothing toys and other items.

For more information or for help in dealing with anxiety or depression form recent flooding issues, call the Family Guidance Center at (816) 364-1501.

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