Florida hires mental health coordinator to help people recover from disasters
From broken buildings to uprooted trees, extreme weather can leave behind a lot of visible damage. But there is invisible damage, too. Many survivors face mental health struggles after a storm.
“They’ve experienced traumatic loss, fear, displacement. It’s very traumatizing, and that’s an abnormal feeling,” says social worker Darcy Abbott. “And people need reassurance that it’s normal to feel that way – an abnormal event has occurred – and that there’s resources and support there … and that they will be resilient and they will get through this.”
Abbott became the mental health coordinator for disaster recovery at the Florida Division of Emergency Management last year.
After an event such as a hurricane, her job is to work with state agencies, relief organizations, and private counselors to coordinate services so that the state can respond to residents’ needs during the recovery process.
Abbott says that her position is unique. Other states have mental health coordinators, but Florida is the first to connect the role with emergency management.
And in a state vulnerable to hurricanes and rising seas, the role will be crucial as the climate changes.
Diana Madson, November 2020