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By: Darwin Campbell
Author of column series “The Black Whisperer”

Coping with life in the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey is taking a mental toll on us all.

The displacement, the fatigue, the death, the losses of neighborhoods, property, furniture and years of memories on a massive scale is monumental.

It opens the gates for life’s other problems and anxieties to come in on top of the shock of losing everything and that further compounds the problem.

In a city already packed with heavy traffic problems, political friction, a slowing economy, job losses and road rage incidents, Houston needs to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and exhale.

This is not your ordinary issues that affects one small economic or social group. It is a huge problem touching each and everyone of us.

Post Storm Withdrawal & Isolation Not the Answer

Your problems may be individual, but one of the first things to understand when you wonder about what next is to recognize that you are not alone. We are all in this together.

One report involved Karen Winston, a clinical social worker. She is just one of several mental and behavioral health officials working the George R. Brown Convention Center.

She and another 16 psychiatrists have been on hand talking to hundreds of survivors.

According to Winston, she has been meeting with Harvey’s victims to walk them through the trauma and help those who arrived with pre-existing mental health disorders get the medications that may have been lost in the storm.

Her reports are numbing because some are feeling dejected, lost, confused and without purpose. “They’re suffering,” she said. “We tell them, ‘We see you, you matter and you’re here.”

Many people are nervous, overwhelmed and anxious. Others still don’t know where to turn or how to cope with the aftermath of the storm because other storms were already brewing or raging in their lives.

According to Winston, sometimes there’s compounded trauma after disasters, such as people who recently went through a divorce or may have been sexually assaulted. Going through a natural disaster may heighten that trauma, she said, and psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression could develop.

Holding it All In is Not the Answer.

Winston said it is important to come to grips with what has happened in Houston and reach out and talk to someone – Share that pain, frustration or concerns you have by talking to a pastor or close friend or family member. It is a good way to begin the steps to address the trauma too.

“If you hold it in, you can get sick from holding it in,” Winston added.


Truth of the Matter

This is a tragic historic storm that ironically put all of us on notice and in the eye of the storm. No matter what our economic status is, we should humble ourselves first, care for our fellow man and focus on being “Houston Strong” 24/7/365.

If we can produce the kind of heroic acts, giving hearts and volunteering spirit we have seen in the news and witnessed on a daily basis, it would not take much to go to the next level and make this spirit permanent.

There does not have to be a city ordinance passed or a special proclamation declared in this case. It about us taking time to live out our kindness, friendliness and love for one another on a daily basis.

We must distance ourselves from those who choose to make a name for themselves by striving to make noise and say and isolate those bent on doing things that divide us and spread hate amongst us.

This is about changing our daily focus, getting more tuned in by knowing our neighbors and neighborhoods again. It’s about being a real community in words and in deed.