Storm victims have a long journey to recover from psychological trauma

Seven weeks after Hurricane Dorian tore through parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama, mental and emotional assessments of government workers on Grand Bahama indicate a rise in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among survivors, according to data from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Consultant Psychologist to the Department of Social Services, Dr. Gregory Swann, leads the team tasked with conducting assessments of those who were severely impacted.

Swann indicated that 90 percent of these assessments are complete thus far.

The next step, he said, is to begin carrying out individual counseling sessions with about 10 percent of the individuals already evaluated.

Dr. Swann said, “…the concerns and challenges that have begun to arise include a high rise in depression, behavioral adjustments and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It is necessary to return to individuals expressing these concerns to further evaluate them and offer emotional counseling.”

Local psychiatrist Dr. David Allen, who leads his own counseling initiative on New Providence, said yesterday that the initial emotional shock from the storm is beginning to wear off.

“You’re seeing acute traumatization, but [that’s] a percentage of them,” he said.

“Sometimes 20 to 30 percent of them will go on to become chronic, but the major thing is to keep the work going. It’s going to be a long journey.”

He explained that these individuals may experience intrusive symptoms like flashbacks, insomnia, agitation, paranoia and restlessness.

He added that the country is experiencing a “massive explosion of traumatization” as a result of Hurricane Dorian.

“We have a number of those that are in a very helpless state,” Allen said.

“So, they will need a lot more time and love and connection.”

Hurricane Dorian barreled through both islands early last month, leaving hundreds homeless and 61 dead, so far.

Dozens of storm survivors said they witnessed family members perish and washed away by monstrous storm surges.

Since the storm’s passage, Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander indicated that the church has participated in counseling some of the 70,000 individuals who were displaced from those islands.

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

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