Natural Disasters are large-scale events that are often unexpected and can cause death, destruction of property and leave the survivors in a severe state of trauma. Disasters affect millions of people around the globe every year. 

By Fadi Qureshi

Many studies have shown increased short-term and long-term mental health consequences such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and suicide among disaster survivors. The frequency of such mental health issues is greater in marginalized and vulnerable populations. Among these, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most common mental disorder and is especially likely to occur with other psychiatric disorders, referred to as comorbidity. What is not well known is that PTSD is commonly accompanied by depression and anxiety. 

Children are more prone to mental health complications after a natural disaster because they have little understanding about what is going on, feel less control over the situation, and have least experience coping with difficult circumstances. Children’s vulnerability to stress reaction after disasters depends on their age, cognitive level, exposure to a disaster, and their parents’ or caregivers’ financial circumstances or status after the event. They may also experience PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, behavioral problems, and academic difficulties.

Cesvi Pakistan is working with the financial support of ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) to spread knowledge to the population in district Mirpur Khas of South Sindh in order to mitigate the effects of such traumatic situations after floods. Counseling has been done at different levels and awareness raising sessions have been conducted to address this unseen yet very important issue of mental health and trauma.

A natural disaster not only disrupts the quality of life but also creates a significant burden of mental health conditions on an individual and the community. Effective interventions should be given pre, and post-disaster periods to improve the adverse mental health effects of the disaster. The psycho-social education and clinical interventions are expected to provide better outcomes because of the integration of various effective measures. Rehabilitation plans should be made by keeping in mind the cultural context of the community and the needs of the affected population. These actions are indeed the need of the hour during the era of climate change to empower the community in a holistic way, so that they can have resilience and cope with future disasters.

Here are some tips to help mental health recovery after a natural disaster:

  • Take time to adjust to difficult circumstances.
  • Ask for support from friends and family.
  • Express your feelings through talking, writing, or creative activities.
  • Join a support group.
  • Engage in healthy behaviors, including getting adequate sleep, eating well, and exercising.
  • Re-establish routines and get involved in positive activities.
  • Avoid making major life decisions during such a phase.

If these steps are followed in a pragmatic way, many stressful and traumatic mental health conditions and disorders can be avoided.