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Dr Karen Massey  403-390-1815

Floods Cause Mental Damage July 1, 2013

An article in the Calgary Herald caught my attention after the massive flooding in the Calgary area the end of June, 2013. “Flooding causes mental damage, too” by Karin Klassen, July 1, 2013 describes the emotional impact of flooding.

Karin Klassen states that floods are the most common type of natural disaster, with the likelihood that there will be an increase in flooding due to global warming. In other words my opinion is that the Calgary, High River, Okotoks, and Bragg Creek areas need to better prepare for the potential emotional damage that floods may create along with all the physical damage.

If you have symptoms such as: unable to get to sleep or stay asleep , nightmares, flashbacks, problems with relationships change of eating patterns cause weight loss or gain, or increased use of alcohol or drugs to cope, then you need to seek therapy for help with anxiety, depression or even trauma-if symptoms continue over one month from the flood then you may have Post Trumatic Stress Disorder.

Research from the British Health Protection Agency about psycho-social effect of flood from 2004 to 2010 provides a good overview to help us understand floods. This research listed the common reactions to a traumatic event, specifically the steps are:

  1. Shock
  2. A type of euphoria because the person has survived;
  3. Hope
  4. Connection with community to get medical and psychological care if needed;
  5. Grief and mourning over the loss
  6. Frustration starts to build as the amount of work takes its toll and the public attention and help ceases;
  7. Resentment builds
  8. Anger develops

This anger was shown in the Calgary newspapers when the residents of High River in particular did not receive as much help nor as quickly as they needed.

The unique aspect of a flooding crisis is thought to be different compared to earthquakes because floods are increasingly predictable. If they are not predicted in time then there are accusations and blaming the governments. In the case of the Calgary flood the weather specialists and people who monitor the water water flow are unfortunately in different departments and until now there have not been any organized communication systems.

The other unique aspect of a flood is that, unlike fire, where the fate of your belongings are usually clearly gone and there is no mess other than cinders to clean up– flooding creates a labor intensive, drawn out seemingly endless time spent clearing, hauling sometimes contaminated soil and water out of a home, finding belongings amidst the muck and contamination, deciding if it is salvageable, or not, shedding a tears with certain throw-away prized possessions, photographs, art work, and jewelry in particular.

Lastly, in addition to dealing with the crisis of the flood, this type of traumatic situation can trigger memories of other distressing events, thereby making it more difficult to emotionally recover fro

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