Risk of trauma high for Harvey evacuees | Here are the symptoms

There's a growing need for mental health experts in Houston as evacuees run a major risk for trauma.

AUSTIN - Mental health experts worry that after surviving a natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey, evacuees and others will forget about the possibility of emotional trauma.

Dr. Kathleen Casey is with Integral Care, the group that oversees the disaster behavioral health response for Austin and Travis County.

"People evacuated from circumstances in which their homes might have been destroyed or all of their belongings were left behind would understandably experience a great deal of distress ... We've learned since 9/11 most notably that it's critically important for mental health professionals to be available to those in need and to give guidance generally to give a sense of safety and security," Dr. Casey said.

She said there are warning signs to look for after a disaster such as Harvey:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Feeling stunned, numb or overwhelmed
  • Sadness, depression or grief
  • Irritability or anger
  • Self-blame or blaming others
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Fear of recurrence
  • Feeling stunned, numb or overwhelmed
  • Feeling helpless
  • Mood swings
  • Sadness, depression or grief
  • Denial
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Relationship problems/marital discord
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches or chest pain
  • Diarrhea, stomach pain, or nausea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increase in drug consumption
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

Dr. Casey said if you're experiencing or see someone else experiencing these symptoms for longer than four weeks, get professional help.

But the worst thing we can do, is this: "One of the biggest mistakes the general public and professionals can make is push someone to recount the details of this trauma before they're ready," said Dr. Casey.

Then there's secondary trauma.

"That trauma and that stress gets passed along to the first responders," said Greg Hansch with the state National Alliance on Mental Illness.

He said the crisis of Harvey will be experienced for years to come, which only highlights the importance of recognizing the warning signs and getting help now.

Here are two important numbers to know if you or someone you know is in crisis:

  • 512-472-HELP
  • 800-985-5990

Both are answered at all times and will get you the help no matter where you are -- even in a shelter.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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