Thursday, April 18, 2013
There is no way to explain the emotional toll of so many man-made disasters in the last week. The immediate response is to feel overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless. Fortunately, with the passage of words, reframing your thought process from the events from terrible things to small miracles and the exhibit of resilience of the human spirit. Two elderly people come to my awareness. The first one was a 78 year old who was blown away by the bombing in the finish line at Boston. One would have thought that this man was hurt, yet he managed to get up complete the marathon and participate in a TV interview a couple of hours later. The other was an older fellow who experienced that silo explosion last night. When he came on TV this morning he was bloodied and seemed that he had just experienced a horrible experience, which he did, about an hour ago he came back on TV, composed, shaved, and with the assurance that all was well.
We have been taught about these types of reactions. These two old guys were doing the best they could do, to re-assure the public that all was well. They were bringing a calming effect to the situation. Altruism and compassion are two behaviors that we saw in both explosions (Boston and West). Everyone was helping each other as much as they could. Allowing the community members to actively participate in their own recovery is a very healing activity. It builds up the resilience of the individual and the community. I would be interested in following up on some of that population that seemed victimized by these two explosions a year from now. I am sure and assured, by my religious beliefs, that they will be victorious!!!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
A new manual entitled Reaching Resilience (www.reachingresilience.org) is a “must read” for those persons engaged in planning long-term recovery. The book includes eight key points on how to collect data, engaging stakeholders and designing flexible interventions. Each key point is divided into three sections: (1) Why it is important?, (2) Action Points, and (3) Pointers. The publishers of this manual are CARE Nederland, Groupe URD and the Disaster Studies of Wageningen University. By reading this manual and experimenting with the tools it provides, after contextualization, you can’t go wrong.
Non-qualified immigrants are unseen and unheard after Hurricane Sandy in New York: Let my people be heard!!!
FEMA and other federal and state agencies only provide assistance to holders of Social Security Cards. These cards are issued after a person that is a (1) noncitizen national or a (2) qualified aliens. After Hurricane Sandy the primary source of disaster relief: the Individual and Household program and/or the Small Business Administration, was not available people that were not holders of social security cards, the so called non-qualified immigrants. (http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2013/01/22/who-qualifies-fema-disaster-assistance).
On Staten Island, residents were surveyed (MRNY, 2012) in South Beach, Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach and Oakwood. These neighborhoods were located in New York City’s Zone A evacuation zones during Sandy. They experienced significant damage during the storm. According to the 2010 Census, 18% of residents of Midland Beach and 15% of residents of South Beach were born in another country.
On Long Island, residents of Brentwood, Central Islip, Bayshore, Babylon, Patchogue and Long Beach were surveyed. Long Island’s immigrant population has more than doubled in the past few decades to just over 465,000 residents, accounting for more than 16 percent of the general population. According to the 2010 Census, more than 68% of Brentwood residents, 52% of neighboring Central Islip residents, and more than 29% of Patchogue residents were Latino or Hispanic. For further information see MRNY (December 2012). Unmet Needs Superstorm Sandy and Immigrant Communalities. New York.
Most of the non-qualified immigrants are Latino’s from Central, South America and the Caribbean Island of Dominican Republic. In Long Island there is a cohort of Puerto Ricans 9although they qualify for assistance because they are U.S. citizens by birth).
The finding suggest that (1) people have lost their home, source of employment, or transportation that would take them to the place of work, and that the assistance provided by NGO’s is not sufficient to satisfy their long term needs. (2) there are strains, and emotional outburst amongst neighbors having to do with who received assistance and who did not, and (3) willing to participate in cash for work programs.
Alegria et al (2007) suggest that one of the ingrained qualities of the Latino population is the social connection. They are frequent participants of civic activities and show a willingness to help neighbors in times of need. This is the case after Hurricane Sandy except that this group is neither seen or heard by the decision makers. They are clamoring for a place in the table, where they can have a say on their future and the future of their families.
The literature on community based psychosocial support and Latinos suggest that lower-income Latino’s have been found at lower-risk of psychiatric disorders (Alegria, Canino, Simson, &Grant, 2006). Other studies (Breslau et al., 2006 and Gonzalez, Haan, & Hinton 2005) have found higher depressive symptom that may be caused by acculturative stress.
If acculturative stress is compounded by the traumatic stress resulting from the displacement, and fears generated by Hurricane Sandy, then there are long term needs for psychosocial support amongst this population that (1) focuses on (community and individual interactions that provide disaster affected people a web of social networks perceived as caring and available in times of need, (2) targets weaving the connections among family, friends, and place that will strengthen the mechanism of social connections, and (3) provide psychosocial support activities, that serve as stress-buffering for post disaster secondary stressors.
Finally alleviate the fear of people coming forward and actively participating on the planning tables of FEMA, and other NGO’s by granting a moratorium on migratory status. Their contribution is very important for the future of our nation.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
RELOCATION MUST BE CLIENT CENTRIC, AND COGNIZANT THAT IN CIRCUMSTANCES SUCH AS HURRICANE SANDY PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT MUST CONTINue AS PART OF LONG TER RECOVERY
This weekend of spoke with one of my colleagues that is currently in New Jersey. The call came out of the blue, so I asked, ”how is it going”, after a long pause he shared his feelings for a while. I asked what were the three basic problems disaster affected people were facing: (1) lack of appropriate housing, (2) upper respiratory injections due to the mold, and (3) mental health issues to deal with secondary stressors. “It is so bad that whole families are impacted now and will be impacted for life”. “The sad part is that we don’t have protocols in place to deal with all the small issues that are turning into insurmountable mountains for these people”
Recovery must consider the psychosocial context and well being of the affected families. Such is the case with displaced people not recognized by FEMA such “as non resident aliens”. Relocation is an acute and short-term life events; except for those without government assistance it becomes a long-term life event. It imposes a considerable amount of stress because when the disaster affected people are forced to move because of an impending catastrophe, they know they will loose everything they had. This perspective minimizes the dynamic quality of mobility and ignores the longer term health and behavioral health consequences of the relocation that unfold gradually as the disaster affected families moved from the shelters to temporary housing, to living with relatives and hopefully back in their place.
Based on our experience and the existing research we propose that there are deleterious health and mental health effects caused by disaster related relocation, not only the immediate circumstances surrounding a move, but also the broader context of the individual’s residential history, the perception of well being in place, the current situation, and the aspiration for the future.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Psychosocial Support and Disasters: THE VOICES OF DISASTER-AFFECTED PEOPLE MUST BE HEA...: Re-establishment of the built or natural “place” is more important to disaster-affected people than the areas emphasized by the govern...
Since Hurricane Sandy I have written and sent out to several journals and shorter articles to newspapers addressing two points: (1) the need for psychosocial support for all the disaster affected people and (2) the importance of engaging the disaster affected people in the recovery process and ultimately planning for their future. This morning I received the sixth note of rejection. The issues are not related to the theoretical basis of the argument but to “grammatical errors that may district the reader”. I shouldn’t feel in angst, I have lived in this country long enough to realize that outsiders are not really welcomed, especially if they have an accent or if they don’t have a mastery of the written language.
Let me try one last time to articulate what I am trying to say based on more than thirty years of experience working disaster response in over 32 countries in the world.
1. Recovery process doesn’t belong exclusively to the external stakeholders. If the recovery plan is not viewed positively by the affected people it may not work well. Acceptance by both groups will dictate the level and quality of participation that has to take place in the development of the recovery plan if the final goal is “a resilient and healthier community”.
2. If resettlement is necessary in areas with large number “undocumented residents”, then develop an appropriate level of assistance, have the disaster-affected people involved in designing and implementing of their recovery, and minimize adverse psychosocial negative impact.
3. Articulate interests and needs so as to reflect the complexity and multi-dimensionality of the recovery process. Have patience, steps toward resilience must be nimble, the gestation period with all stakeholders will strengthen the social fabric of place, neighborhood and community networks.