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.