Counselling can help hurricane victims

Barbudans affected by the trauma of Hurricane Irma could benefit from counselling despite their resiliency, said Koren Norton, social worker and counsellor. But, she warned, counselling should not be forced on them since people may have different needs.

“You have the persons who were in their houses while they were being blown apart or lost a family member or valuables. That person will probably experience some trauma. They might have some flashbacks or difficulty sleeping.

They’ll probably feel triggers when it rains again or there’s another storm and things like that,” Norton said.
Specifically, she said, a grieving process can be triggered by the trauma of losing valuable possessions that a person may have worked for all of their lives.

First responders, like the Coast Guard, police officers and healthcare workers may also need to be considered for mental health counselling because, she said, they may have suffered secondary trauma.

And while Antiguans did not suffer the devastation seen by Barbudans, Norton said that this does not exempt them from the benefits of counselling.

Helen Brodie, clinical psychologist, echoes Norton’s stance in the belief that group support is important, telling OBSERVER media that group counselling would be very important so that people could recognise that they are not alone.

She too said that Antiguans should seek counselling if they are traumatised by the recent storms.

“When a person is faced with a crisis, sometimes they have a fight or flight response and tense up in anticipation. If you’re walking on the road and you see a pitbull, your body goes tense,” Norton explained, “and you try to figure out what do I do. But after the owner comes out and leashes the dog and removes it, then you start to relax and your blood pressure comes down. You start to relax and your physiology changes.

She added that something similar happens when people prepare for a storm, with a heightened state of anxiety usually followed by a period of relaxation. But the recent experience of back-to-back hurricanes denied people that down time.

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