MINNEAPOLIS (Sept. 29, 2011) — Damage from tornadoes isn’t only about your homes and trees. Surviving a tornado can create feelings of stress, anxiety and fear as you deal with loss, clean-up and repair. Many people struggle to cope when there is a change in their life, particularly one that has such an impact on families, neighbors and the community as the tornado has had.
Survival and recovery from the tornado can be very challenging and the response or reaction can vary from individual to individual. “Post traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – is generally thought of as something that happens to people in war. But any event that is sudden and traumatic can cause people to become more anxious, angry or worried – which can be signs of PTSD,” said Dr. Annice Golden, director of Behavioral Health at NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center. “The impact can be overwhelming.”
Four months after a tornado ripped through north Minneapolis, tearing apart homes, unsettling dozens of families and taking two lives, Golden said she suspects the storm is still affecting the survivors. Early on, families are focused on survival and basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing.
The emotional impact of a disaster may not be experienced until months after the actual event. Experience of a disaster can be very traumatic for all ages including children and adolescents.
“This storm affected a community with high poverty rates, high unemployment, homelessness and violence. These issues can also lead to PTSD like symptoms and negatively impact a person’s overall health and well being,” Golden said.
Golden and a coalition of groups, including the Northside Community Response Team, NorthPoint Health & Wellness, Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis are using a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to help community members identify signs of PTSD and seek help.
If you or someone you love is:
• Feeling more insecure, fearful, sad, angry or worried about the future.
• Worried that another tornado or storm will occur.
• Having problems being irritable, throwing temper tantrums or being agitated.
• Clinging or being extremely anxious or immature.
• Having increased physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, loss of appetite, nightmares, or sleep problems.
• Having problems at school, such as a drop in grades.
Golden said, “Everyone has periods of sleeplessness or worry, but when the emotions or feelings negatively impact daily functioning or cause you to avoid places or situations, then it’s time to seek help.”
NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, Minneapolis Public Schools and many other community agencies have health care and supportive services that may be appropriate. Families who attend parent-teacher conferences on Oct. 19 at the following schools will find more information about services: Bethune Community, Hall International, Hmong International Academy, Jenny Lind Elementary, Loring Community, Nellie Stone Johnson Community, Northeast Middle, Olson Middle, Sheridan International Fine Arts, and Cityview.
Golden urges residents to at least begin talking to their close family members, friends or clergy. “Sometimes talking can provide great relief.”
For assistance and referral, call the Tornado Recovery Hotline at 612-787-3730 or talk to your child’s school. Families can call NorthPoint Behavioral Health at 612-543-2566 to get information about NorthPoint services or for an appointment.