With Isaac poised to make landfall in the same areas of the Gulf Coast struck by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, the American Red Cross has a series of tips for families and individuals in the region that may experience anxiety about the storm and anniversary.
"The combination of the approaching storm and Katrina anniversary will likely cause increased fear and unease for residents in New Orleans and along coastal communities as people relive difficult emotions," said Rob Yin, manager of disaster mental health, American Red Cross. "It's important that people remember to take care of themselves and make appropriate disaster preparations to stay safe which can also help to reduce stress. Don't forget to reach out to others to offer or get help if you need it."
Across multiple states along the Gulf, the Red Cross has launched a large disaster response as Isaac affects millions of lives with strong winds, heavy rain, flooding and coastal surges. Last night, nearly 800 people found a safe haven in 52 shelters open in five states. In addition, the Red Cross has mobilized 2,400 disaster workers, prepositioned 290,000 ready-to-eat meals and activated 187 emergency response vehicles from across the country to help. The Red Cross is also coordinating with multiple partners including a variety of civic groups, advocacy organizations, professional organizations and houses of worship to share their expertise and volunteers.
The Red Cross recommends that people be mindful that community members and disaster workers could experience anniversary reactions now or in the near future. Reactions can range from a mild upset for a day or two, to a stronger version with anxiety or depression. Most people will feel better within a week or two after the anniversary date as stress responses usually become less frequent and less severe over time.
Anniversary reactions could include:
- Experiencing 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; and
The following actions can help families and individuals cope with anniversary stress reactions:
- Stay informed and be prepared. If in the potential path of an approaching storm, pay attention to information and warnings from local authorities.
- 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. Recognize 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.
- Reach out to a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health or community mental health professional for support, if the actions above don't help or to get more support. You can also contact the 24 hour National Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.
Isaac is predicted to trigger a large and prolonged disaster response with major flooding across several states. You can help the victims of Tropical Storm Isaac and other disaster events in Louisiana by making a financial gift to American Red Cross. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. People can call, click or text to donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.