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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a national mental health crisis. A CDC survey found that 40% of respondents are struggling with mental health, as CNN explained, “both related to the coronavirus pandemic itself and the measures put in place to contain it, including physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.”
And now, according to the findings of a project by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and Columbia Journalism Investigations, in collaboration with 10 local and regional outlets, the strain of the pandemic is being compounded by the mental and emotional strain of the natural disasters that have affected the nation this summer.
Why This Matters: Mental trauma after a natural disaster isn’t a new occurrence, in fact, according to a Rice University study, 50% of Houston-area residents have experienced severe emotional distress since Hurricane Harvey devasted parts of the city in 2017. As CPI and Columbia Journalism found, “mental health experts worry the psychological toll from these increasingly common cataclysms — with a pandemic now overlaid on top — could be unprecedented.”
Recognizing Mental Health: As the American Academy of Pediatrics explained: in addition to their profound effects on the life and infrastructure of communities, disasters produce a massive collective stress exceeding the ability of the affected population to cope with the physical, emotional, and financial burdens.
Disaster episodes affect millions of people and exert a collective social suffering that requires a monumental effort by individuals, communities, societies, and the world community to overcome.
Classically, relief efforts focus on the physical consequences of disasters by providing immediate medical attention and addressing health and environmental services (water supply, sewage disposal, and shelter).
But only in recent years have the short and long-term consequences on mental health and psychosocial well being of individuals, families and communities been taken into consideration.
In the United States, our primary program for supporting mental health after a natural disaster is the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The program distributes an average of $24 million, or 1% of FEMA’s annual total relief fund, to send mental health workers into disaster-stricken communities and provide other support.
But the Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations found that this help usually lasts about a year, even though the psychological effects can linger for many more, and reaches only a fraction of survivors.
We can do a lot better than this. In fact, as the WHO explained, many countries have capitalized on emergency situations to build better mental health systems after crises.
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer This week, the medical journal Lancet published their annual report on health in relation to climate change, subtitling it: “code red for a healthy future.” The report delves beyond the obvious effects of wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme weather events — looking at food security; livelihoods; human physical and mental […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The EPA announced Monday that it will move toward regulating perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — manmade “forever chemicals” — that don’t naturally break down and can contaminate both air and water. These chemicals, found in various household products, from dental floss to nonstick pans, can also be harmful […]
The editors of over 230 medical journals said in a statement on Monday that climate change is a health issue and that its effects could become “catastrophic” if world leaders don’t do more to address it. The health impacts of climate change include wildfire smoke–which has been linked to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases–and pollutants […]
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