Mental Health Mondays: Overcoming post-Harvey emotions

By India Ogazi

Melinda Ainsworth

When hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Melinda Ainsworth’s anxiety quickly rose. Her home didn’t flood, but she was overwhelmed by the loss of life and physical devastation all around her. And she’s not alone. Post-Harvey stress is quite common.

“Symptoms usually peak in the first several months to one year,” explains psychiatrist Dr. Chad Lemaire, Legacy’s medical director of behavioral health. Lemaire says many will go through stages of grief and anxiety but those feelings will fade for most. “We call it resilience,” he says.

Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties, or to bounce back. If you are experiencing trauma as a result of Harvey, Lemaire offers the following advice to recover.


  • Connect with others, rather than withdrawing – social support is a big key to recovery.
  • Accept help — don’t be afraid or too proud to let someone else ease your burdens
  • Be hopeful — optimism can play a large role in healthy functioning after losses or stressors.
  • Build self-efficacy – related to hope, a belief that you can get through whatever life throws at you.
  • Maintain healthy behaviors like exercise, good nutrition and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
  • Focus on one’s spirituality, including but not limited to religion.
  • Seek professional help if you are concerned that you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms of anxiety, depression or substance use.

Ainsworth felt much better after discussing her emotions during her weekly therapy session with Legacy therapist Roma Bhatt. “Therapy is a safe place for me to talk about my feelings and help me feel better and connected,” Ainsworth says.

Lemaire explains how the understanding that comes from talking to our support networks, which may include family, friends or a therapist, truly can help.

Know that feeling overwhelmed, depressed or traumatized after Harvey is normal. But as Lemaire says, the majority of the time, it will get better. He offers these final thoughts of inspiration: “I know a number of Katrina survivors who ended up in Houston, and they give me hope because many of them rebounded and even got to a higher level of functioning, finding new meaning in their lives. They showed us what resilience looks like.”

If your post-Harvey recovery is becoming too difficult, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.