Experts Warn of Psychological Toll Linked to Alabama Tornados

May 6, 2014

Mental health professionals say Alabamians who were impacted by last week’s storms should try recovering emotionally while dealing with damaged property and the storms’ other tangible impacts.

National Weather Service officials have said that at least 18 tornadoes have been confirmed in Alabama during a series of storms that swept through the region April 28 and 29. Last week’s severe weather outbreak was the worst since April 2011, and left a trail of damage that stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes region, National Weather Service meteorologists said.

Leslie Phillips from Mental Health of North Central Alabama told the Decatur Daily that Alabamians who were impacted by the storm should give themselves time to mourn what they’ve lost.

“Some common reactions would include feelings of insecurity, anxiety, fear and anger, and of course the unfairness of losing everything, especially when you see homes that weren’t touched, and worries about the future,” Phillips said.

Failing to address emotional issues could lead to trouble sleeping or focusing and aggression, she said. “It is important to establish a routine, even if it’s just eating meals at a normal time,” Phillips said. “Getting back into some type of normalcy is important.”

Phillips and director of the Mental Health Center of Madison County Brian Davis said people who suffer traumatic events face the possibility of mental fatigue if they don’t address the psychological impact of the trauma.

“All of us can white-knuckle it for a day or a week. But what we see with traumatic stress events is that the stress is accumulative,” said Davis, who compares ignoring emotional needs to ignoring a car’s gas tank because there isn’t time to fill it up.

“You can only put off filling up your gas tank for so long, and then you’re going to have a bigger problem,” he said.

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