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Ministry downplays hurricane PTSD concerns

There has been no increase in the amount of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, according to the Ministry of Health’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Focal Person Dr. Wendy Fernander.

This after health officials last month expressed concerns that PTSD and depression could be affecting a large number of hurricane victims on Abaco and Grand Bahama.

“While people may be distressed, while people may experience some kind of anxiety, frustration and fear, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have PTSD,” Fernander said.

“It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Since the storm, some victims have expressed being afraid in rainy weather along with a number of other fears as a result of the monster Category 5 storm.

However, Fernander insisted that these symptoms in isolation do not qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD.

She further noted that the country will not see the full mental health impact of the storm immediately.

“For us, this is not a sprint. This is a marathon,” she said.

“The full effects of what has happened has not been seen as yet. What happens is that in the next few years or so and even now, there are going to be people who are going to be extremely distressed, especially during this holiday season, because they have lost everything, and last year they were in their homes and probably looking forward to gather with their families.

“Now they have nothing, and they are probably living with relatives and the relatives may be tired of them. So, now we can have distressing symptoms.”

Since the passage of Hurricane Dorian, it was reported that church leaders participated in counseling some of the 70,000 individuals who were displaced on those storm-ravaged islands.

Fernander said many pastors have received training in this regard from members of the Bahamas Psychological Association (BPA) to provide psychosocial support (PSS).

Fernander also said that 250-300 pastors and spiritual leaders were trained in October, one month after the storm, to conduct PSS services.

Since the storm’s passage, AmeriCares, a non-profit disaster relief and global health organization, reported conducting 800 mental health consultations for Dorian survivors.

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