In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S. hard, killing 73, destroying tens of thousands of homes, and forcing thousands into shelters. In a situation like this, the mental health of the survivors is often overlooked. It’s put on a backburner and deemed less important than other health issues. However, many people are left without their basic belongings, their home, and a family or community support system. During Sandy, houses filled with water, children and adults were forced to swim to safety, and many witnessed the death and suffering of loved ones.
As a psychology major entering my senior year, I’ve learned how important mental health is to both an individual and a community. Since the beginning of my internship here at AmeriCares, I’ve been made aware that it’s common for survivors of great trauma to develop and suffer from psychological disorders. Resulting illnesses include PTSD, Depression, and General Anxiety Disorder. Given that these illnesses can have a huge impact on survivors’ lives, mental health services should be made a priority during natural disaster relief efforts alongside the distribution of food, water, and medical supplies.
After Sandy, AmeriCares did not stop their work in New York and New Jersey once survivors had adequate food, water, and medicine. AmeriCares worked as a support system for people in need when they were stripped of their physical and mental resources and put at great risk for later serious psychological disorders.
Among its many recovery programs, the organization helped sponsor and run various mental health relief projects in the tri-state area. Partnering with the YMCA of Greater New York, AmeriCares supported a 12-week therapeutic and education program for children, teaching them how to speak about and cope with their experiences.
In Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, AmeriCares helped fund a mobile mental health clinic that provided clinical care, case management, and mental health education to local residents.
AmeriCares also helped to sponsor a Pediatric Disaster Mental Health Intervention, in which pediatricians in the tri-state area were trained to identify mental disorders resulting from natural disasters as well as how to apply mental health first aid and how to refer patients to other mental health professionals.
I am a psychology major, driven humanitarian, aspiring world traveler, and grateful AmeriCares summer intern. At my university, I have learned of the history, causes, symptoms, and treatments of various mental disorders.
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@AmeriCares” suffix=””]At AmeriCares, I have seen the real life importance of mental health relief at the most extreme times[/inlinetweet], something that cannot be studied in a classroom. AmeriCares takes a holistic approach to disaster relief, working as a support system, security blanket, educator and backbone to survivors.