Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 Terror Attack, and like many Americans I can easily recount where I was at when I saw the coverage of the attack. The event dominated news media for weeks after the events unfolded, and became enshrined as a defining moment of 21st century America.
I cannot even begin to fathom the first hand experiences of people who directly impacted from the attack, but for many, the day is a permanent memory of the way they felt, perceived, and witnessed everything unfold.
Secondary Traumatic Stress occurs when an individual hears the recounting of another’s traumatic life event. Often, the symptoms are similar to that of the more commonly known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In recent years, there has been more research being done to see the effects of disasters that affect those beyond those immediately experiencing an event.
In the wake of the recent disasters of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we have seen coverage of their destruction everywhere from major news sources to the social media that we consume for updates from loved ones. A recent New York Times piece noted that the Weather Channel, being the only network to provide 24/7 access to coverage of the recent Hurricanes, had seen its audience increase nearly tenfold. The coverage of these storms has been vast, because the scale of the destruction of these storms has been unprecedented.
Covering these events is vital, it is important that we do not sensor the news that we receive just because of the harmful effects that it may have on us. But, by being more aware, and staying informed, we can acknowledge the way that having information so freely available can help us to cope, and hopefully heal, together.
New York Times Piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/business/media/weather-channel-hurricane-irma.html?_r=0
Secondary Traumatic Stress: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/secondary-traumatic-stress
In recent weeks, there have been several catastrophic natural disasters. Arshya recently wrote about the public health aftermath of such disasters. Recovery from natural disasters must be comprehensive in that the safety, sanitation, and welfare of the people, animals, infrastructure, and environment of the affected communities must be addressed.
It is likely that you or someone you know has been impacted by the hurricanes or earthquake, which might leave you wondering how you can help. If you cannot provide time, many local, national, international, and online organizations will accept your donations. Before committing your resources, take a few minutes to do a little research to check whether a charity is legit. Charity Navigator is a trusted source for identifying organizations responding to natural disasters.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers additional tips for wise giving after natural disasters:
- Be wary of charities that seem to have appeared overnight.
- Stick to charities that have a proven track record for dealing with disasters.
- Designate the disaster so that your funds will be used directly instead of going in to a general fund.
- When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source. Charges will show up on your phone bill but donations may not be immediate.
The FTC also offers tips for those affected by natural disasters:
- Be skeptical of people or groups promising immediate clean-up or debris removal. Some may offer overly priced quotes for work, demand payment before ever doing work, or lack the necessary licenses or skills to complete the work.
- Be on the lookout for rental listing scams that ask for sending money before actually visiting the property.
- You may need to share personal information to gain access to resources, so make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with before sharing your social security number or financial information.
Federal Trade Commission. FTC Advise for Helping Hurricane Harvey Victims. August 28, 2017. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/08/ftc-advice-helping-hurricane-harvey-victims
Hurricane Harvey hit Texas hard last week. CNN says it was the strongest hurricane since Charlie hit the Southeast in 2004 (they have also shared some striking images of the damages and flooding if you want to click that link). New sources today have the current casualty total at least 70. As entire communities of people regather and begin to rebuild their lives, there are concerns to consider beyond immediate damage. Times of chaos, grief, and mass movement are ripe for poor health conditions. What health problems do hurricanes leave behind?
NPR interviewed Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist who has had a lot of experience treating patients post-natural disasters. After all, she was a physician in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, and has been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey this week. She talks about violence, mental health, and infectious diseases issues as being of particular concern in the immediate aftermath of such a storm.
According to the New York Post, Harvey sunk the crest of the Earth by about 0.75 inches! Combine that heavy water burden with people living in close proximity in emergency shelters in less than ideal hygienic conditions, and you can see why the IDSA (Infectious Diseases Society of America) is concerned with the spread of viruses. In particular, they are worried about infections that spread quickly like norovirus, and those that might affect unvaccinated populations who now have more exposure to pathogens. This is especially concerning as mosquitoes, temporarily scared off by the storm, come back to stagnant water, possibly carrying diseases with them. Access to medications to treat chronic illnesses is also expected to be more difficult. For some populations, like those living with HIV, it’s really important not to disrupt treatment. Finally going home to mold and disarray increases the likelihood of asthma and respiratory tract illnesses.
The Carribean Islands, currently facing similar conditions as Hurricane Irma unfolds, are witnessing similar public health crises.
As we hope for a quick and wholesome recovery to those affected by these storms, consider donating if you can—this NYT article links to some organizations, both local and national, that are gathering funds.