Categorized | National News

‘Get Buddy System to Cope with Hurricane Trauma,’ Says Dr. Allen

With the threat of another major monster storm, Hurricane Maria, and with Bahamians still reeling from category five Hurricane Irma, unsure of what will come Psychologist Dr. David Allen said these are the times that persons who live through the storms are traumatize by fear and Bahamians need to create a buddy system to get through such traumatic experiences.

“There is a trauma of hearing about a hurricane, like when I came back from Washington, people were saying Maria is coming and I can feel the fear in people’s voices,” Dr. Allen said.

“Then there is the fear during the trauma, when the hurricane is actually here, and then there is the fear that develops after the trauma, post traumatic.”

Speaking exclusively with The Bahama Journal, Dr. Allen said he spent time with some evacuees from the southern islands and noted how terrifying Hurricane Irma was for them.

“You know it’s been a very difficult time in our country. I’ve had first-hand experience of being with some of the evacuees talking with them, seeing their children,” Dr. Allen said.

“Irma was a terrifying hurricane, perhaps the biggest hurricane ever been.

“The good news is that it spared the capital so that we could be available to help the southern islands. We’ve had them in the past and earlier years too, but it is important to recognize that these are very traumatic experiences.”

Dr. Allen said post trauma comes in various forms, in particular flashbacks, nightmares, arousal symptoms, and withdrawal symptoms.

“All the traumatic aspect of hurricanes or any major disasters come under three or four categories,” Dr. Allen said.

“First of all, you have flashbacks. Flashbacks are really in consciousness. You can actually imagine the same thing occurring again. You can hear the roar of a tornado. You can hear the roar of the wind. You can imagine your house being broken up.

“You could imagine people staying here and thinking of their homes in the southern islands. You could imagine them getting on the plane and going back and wondering what am I going to find, very traumatic.

“Then you have nightmares, and they can be terrible.

“Now you can dream that everything is fine or you can dream that everything is horrible, but the point is you are kept in abeyance between the flash back and the nightmares.”

As for the other symptoms, arousal and withdrawal, Dr. Allen said they can have a ricochet effect on the family and the home.

“Arousal symptoms you are on edge because with other hurricanes coming, wow we just went through one,” he said.

“You are on edge so you are aroused. You are hyper vigilant looking over your shoulder you are almost paranoid if I may say so, and what that does is it makes you feel anxious and anxiety is fear, a fear inside if you.

“The fear sometimes goes into agitation where you don’t want to sit in one place and you don’t know what to do.

“Because you are also hyper aroused, you are more fussy, you fuss your children.

“When you are angry and fussy you know who gets the brunt of it, not the stranger, but the family and the sad thing about this traumatic thing of the hurricanes is that some families will be hurt with the internal combustion of anger, domestic violence and fear.”

As for withdrawal, Dr. Allen said that is a post traumatic effect that is dangerous.

“People when they are traumatized they want to withdraw, now that’s very dangerous because sometimes a person can be deeply hurt, but they won’t say a word to you,” he said.

As for a way of coping, Dr. Allen suggested that when going through a catastrophic storm experience it is good to create a buddy system, one that he suggested is good especially for the islands on the south impacted the most by hurricanes.

“The best thing to do is to create the buddy system. Find someone to talk to,” Dr. Allen said.

“Fear is like shame. If you talk about it, it gets less and less. If you don’t talk about it, it just grows and grows, get a buddy system.

“That is what we need to start in the southern islands and even in Nassau, the buddy system, people helping people.”

As for other post traumatic effects, Dr. Allen said insomnia also plays a major role in trauma.

Difficulties falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and early morning awakenings are the worst of it.

However, Dr. Allen commended the government for the initiative of evacuating the residents of the southern islands and said the process should become mandatory.

“I think it was a brilliant stroke for the government, the prime minister, to evacuate the islands and I still think that mandatory evacuation has to be discussed because these hurricanes are very, very serious,” Dr. Allen said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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