Coping with emotions in emergencies

Emotional and mental health is seriously endangered during emergency threats such as hurricanes,

‘Efforts to mitigate the threat to our mental health are therefore important since one’s state of mind influences conscious behaviour in emergency situations,’ said Dr. Mark Lockhart, consultant psychiatrist at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

The Cayman Islands can be affected by several types of emergency, as outlined on the www.caymanprepared.ky website. The effects of such threats can be dramatic, particularly since they are invariably unexpected, with persons being unprepared and unable to prevent them. However, following calming measures can be helpful.

Before and during an emergency it is important to remain calm, control your fear and anxiety, and behave rationally – particularly in the presence of people who may need your help. If you are feeling especially anxious or frightened, follow this advice:

Stop what you are doing and take a few slow, deep breaths.

Focus on your feelings and thoughts. Talk calmly about them with family or friends.

Focus on what practical tasks you and your family can do.

Explain to children what is happening and how they may be feeling. Reassure them and let them help.

Listen if those around you tell you are acting strangely or seem over-stressed.

After an emergency, even though the direct threat has passed, the psychological burden still remains and needs to be relieved in a controlled manner. Accordingly:

When the danger has passed, check if children or neighbours are still distressed. Talk to them about their experiences.

Take some satisfaction in having survived a very stressful and threatening situation.

• Incorporate as many elements of your normal routine incorporated into your post-disaster plans as possible. Include activities to allay children’s fears.

Be aware that you may have fever resources to attend to daily activities after an emergency, so it is best to do what you can ahead of time.

Adjust your expectations and stay positive. You will not be able to do everything you did before and may not have all the resources you had before. Focus on what you can do and look for the new opportunities that the situation brings.

Turn to family, friends, and social or religious contacts to set up support networks to help deal with the potential stressors.

Let your children know that it is okay to feel upset when something bad or scary happens.

Encourage your children to express their feelings and thoughts, without making judgments.

It is important to have adequate sleep, nutrition and rest as best as possible before, during and after a disaster

Be aware that a range of physical and emotional reactions may occur. However should they continue for an extended period, consult your physician or contact the Mental Health Department, Cayman Islands Hospital at 244-2650.

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