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Disaster and the mind

Even as we prepare this article, sections of the United States Gulf Coast are being pounded by the winds and rains of Hurricane Isaac.

The adverse weather conditions would naturally evoke fear in the minds of all who are in its path, but experts have warned that since it is occurring on the anniversary of the massive destruction and loss of life caused by Hurricane Katrina seven years, anxiety and distress could be heightened.


With local and federal disaster agencies in the US fully mobilised, and with the United States Red Cross already fully deployed, residents who went through Katrina have been warned they could find themselves experiencing symptoms that include:

* Similar feelings and thoughts that occurred during the event like sadness, fearfulness or uncertainty;

* Feeling the need to avoid events, places or people that are connected to the anniversary;

* Feeling nervous, on edge, jumpy or quick to anger;

* Difficulty sleeping, focusing or concentrating;

* Experiencing fatigue, pain, headaches or stomachaches.

Most Barbadians alive today have not experienced the full brunt of a major hurricane, considering that the last direct hit on the island was Hurricane Janet in 1952, but all ought to be aware that we are in the heart of the 2012 hurricane season and therefore never too far away from a disaster.

What ought also to be clear is that given the state of thousands of houses in Barbados, in the event that the island faces a major storm system, many would be advised to seek to ride out the system in a hurricane shelter or with friends or family whose homes are more secure.

Red Cross tips

While each situation and individual may require specific care, keeping these tips from the US Red Cross can still be of value:

* Stay informed and be prepared. If in the potential path of an approaching storm, pay attention to information and warnings from local authorities.

* Make sure your disaster kit and plans are complete. Being prepared for storms can reduce stress;

* Eat healthy. During times of stress it is important to maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water;

* Get some rest. Giving your mind and body a break can help you cope with stress;

* Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and receiving support is one of the most important things you can do;

* Be patient with yourself and those around you. Recognise that people may need time to put their feelings and thoughts in order;

* Stay positive. Remind yourself how you’ve successfully coped with stress in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.

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