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Disaster Distress Helpline Counsels Storm Survivors

Those who need to talk are urged to seek help before, during or after hurricanes

Disaster Hotline

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If you're experiencing anxiety, anger or other mental health issues in the wake of recent disasters, there's a number to call for help.

En español | Hurricanes, flooding and mass evacuations have caused deep anxieties across the nation, even among those not directly victimized, prompting a federal agency to offer crisis-support counseling services to all Americans.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has made its disaster distress helpline available at 800-985-5990 to serve those experiencing emotional distress related to a natural or human-caused disaster. SAMHSA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided similar services following Superstorm Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Ebola outbreak.

"When disaster strikes, people react with increased anxiety, worry and anger,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., assistant secretary for mental health and substance use. “With community and family support, most of us bounce back. Some may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties."

The crisis counselors promise to “listen to what’s on your mind with patience and without judgment. There is no need to give any identifying information when you contact the disaster distress helpline,” the agency's website says.

The helpline is open to everyone, including disaster survivors, loved ones of victims, rescuers, relief workers, parents and caregivers.

Coping tips from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America include creating an evacuation plan, remaining informed, talking about fears and anxieties with anyone who can provide emotional support, and trying to accept events that you can’t control. “Nobody can control the path of a storm or its damage,” the association notes on its website. “Excessive worry will not change anything except your emotional well-being."

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