Severe storms that produce tornadoes, strong wind gusts, lightning strikes, flash floods and other damaging effects can trigger emotional distress in those that experience them: survivors in impacted areas (including children and teens), loved ones of victims, those who have suffered damaged to or who have lost completely residential or business property, and first responders, rescue & recovery workers are all at risk.
Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping and other depression-like symptoms are common responses to disasters and traumatic events (before, during and after the event), although reactions can vary from person-to-person. Most people that experience disasters are able to 'bounce back' in a short period of time, but others may need additional support in order to cope and move forward on the path of recovery.
The Disaster Distress Helpline provides year-round, 24/7 phone- and text-based crisis counseling to anyone who is experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters within the U.S. and territories.
Forecasts for severe weather help us to get prepared- but can also trigger overwhelming feelings of distress. Because forecasts for severe storms can arise days ahead of time, as well as the overall unpredictable nature of the forecasts once they do take shape, those living in targeted areas may experience overwhelming anxiety, confusion, fear or a feeling of 'paralysis'- like wanting to shut down. Those who have struggled to recover from past experiences with tornadoes or severe storms may be particularly vulnerable to distress when hearing of a forecast.
Once tornado or severe storm warnings are issued, the risk for distress becomes greater:
During the storm or immediately after, distress can result from:
Those with limited physical mobility or economic means (no car or access to mass transit during evacuations), limited English-speaking, or those who may have pre-existing mental health concerns are all also particularly vulnerable to isolation before, during or immediately after the storm.
Once power is restored or it is safe to return to impacted areas, additional distress may occur upon return to the impacted area if a home, business, school, place of worship or a beloved community gathering place such as a neighborhood park or wildlife refuge are damaged or destroyed.
When loss of or major damage to any kind of property occurs, distress may arise from having to adjust to a 'new normal':
First responders, rescue and recovery workers include:
Risk factors for emotional distress among first responders, rescue & recovery worker distress includes:
Symptoms of distress may appear before the disaster during a prolonged forecast, during the event itself, or may manifest in the hours, days, weeks, months or even years after the disaster. Signs of distress can include:
Sometimes before, during or after disasters, what may seem like 'fighting' between intimate partners or family members may actually be a symptom of a larger pattern of abuse. For victims of intimate partner violence (dating or domestic violence); sexual violence (rape or other forms of sexual harassment or assault); or of family violence (child abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse and other patterns of abuse and victimization between family members) disasters may heighten their sense of isolation and vulnerability before/during/or after the event.
No matter the circumstances surrounding distress or what the symptoms may be in response to, it's important to reach out for help.
If you or someone you know shows any of these warning signs, whether you know they are in relation to a tropical storm or hurricane or if you aren't sure how they started ... Talk with us. You are not alone! Call our toll-free number 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (Spanish-speakers can text Hablanos to 66746) for support and counseling. Calls and texts are answered by trained, caring counselors from crisis call centers located throughout the U.S.
If you or someone you care about is or may be experiencing (in the past or currently) intimate partner, sexual, or family abuse or violence- call the Disaster Distress Helpline, or reach out to:
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) http://www.thehotline.org/ - TTY 1-800-787-3224
National Teen Dating Violence Hotline 1-866-331-9474 http://www.loveisrespect.org/ - TTY 1-866-331-8453 - Text "loveis" to 77054
Rape, Abuse, Incest National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) http://www.rainn.org/
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453 (4-A-CHILD) http://www.childhelp.org/
National Center on Elder Abuse (U.S. Administration on Aging) Website with state-by-state resources: http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/Find_Help/State_Resources.aspx
The national '2-1-1' system offers up-to-the-minute, local, disaster-specific information and resources. Visit http://www.211.org to locate a center serving a tornado or severe storm-impacted area or just dial '2-1-1'.
Although the Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7/365 crisis counseling and support for all 50 states and territories, if you are looking to connect with a local crisis center, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org to look up the nearest call center serving the impacted area or call 1-800-273-TALK .
American Red Cross:Taking Care of your Emotional Health after a Disaster (PDF)
American Psychological Association: Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Disasters and Other Traumatic Events http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/natural-disasters/floods National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Recovery: After a Tornado http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/natural-disasters/tornadoes#tabset-tab-5
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Recovery: After a Flood http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/natural-disasters/floods
SAMHSA (Sustance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Traumatic Event (PDF)
Creating safety and emergency plans for your home and business can give you a sense of control when severe weather is forecasted, and help you and your loved ones to feel calmer when disasters and other emergencies do strike.
For information on how to prepare for tornadoes and severe storms, visit:
ASPCA Disaster Preparedness for Pets http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/disaster-preparedness/
Centers for Disease Control Emergency Preparedness and Response: Tornadoes http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes/
Sesame Street Let's Get Ready: Planning Together for Emergencies (involving children in family preparedness) http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/ready
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation: Older Adults and Disaster- Disaster Preparedness & Response http://www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/disaster_prprdns.html