Mental Health Mondays: Hurricane Harvey One Year Later

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

Hurricane Harvey was deeply traumatizing for those who lived through the monster storm.  The National Hurricane Center estimates Harvey caused $125 billion in damages, but the human cost is still being calculated. A year later, many have moved on and rebuilt both their homes and lives while others are still struggling with the mental toll left behind.

After the storm, Legacy Community Health’s Medical Director of Behavioral Health, Dr. Chad Lemaire wrote in a Houston Chronicle op-ed that resilience was the key to recovering from the storm. He finds that is still the key even now.

“We have seen many patients in our clinics who have been extremely resilient. People who have experienced lots of damage and trauma and they have made out pretty well,” said Lemaire. “Some become even stronger than they were before Harvey.”

However, that has not been the case for everyone. “As is the case with most natural disasters, how much someone was directly affected by the storm predicted how much distress they had,” said Lemaire.

After Harvey, one of the areas that Legacy was able to address community mental health needs head on was in our school based heath program.

“We met with our partner schools and worked out a plan to address the immediate needs like providing emotional support or supplies to students and school staff.” said Dr. Teandra Gordon, clinical director of school based behavioral health at Legacy. “Whatever it took, we made sure we provided during that difficult time.”

Nestled in the talk of how Houston will continue to rebuild, some are asking can we be better prepared for mental health crises in future disasters.

“Some experts have suggested prioritizing resiliency into our community planning. We can do that by focusing on things like housing, transportation, access to health care and healthy food, to help people become healthier and more resilient before they encounter the next disaster or trauma,” said Dr. Lemaire.

However, in the end it may still boil down to asking for help regardless of the physical or personal storm you may be facing.

“Don’t allow fear to control your life. Put that energy into being prepared,” said Dr. Gordon. “But if fear is interfering with your life, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Photo credit: National Guard Bureau/US Army Photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West