Guest Author - Sarah Elise Stauffer
Over the weekend as Hurricane Rita threatened the Gulf Coast 150,000 people sought refuge in American Red Cross shelters. Rita was a Category 3 storm early Saturday morning, coming ashore near Lake Charles, La. and flooded many coastal communities. New Orleans was awash in floodwaters once again.
Rita dumped as much as 16 inches of rain on parts of Louisiana further complicating Katrina recovery.
"While the storm’s damage was not as devastating or widespread as its size portends, several areas of the Gulf are considered uninhabitable, including Beaumont and Port Arthur, Tx. The Department of Energy said that 1.5 million customers were without power in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas as a result of both hurricanes. It could still be several weeks before basic services including power, water, and sewer service are restored, " said The Red Cross on their website.
The Red Cross is also working to provide much needed emotional support to severly traumatized residents. American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health worker and trained psychologist Dawn Harris is helping support people after enduring yet another disaster so close on the heels of Katrina. “We try to have mental health workers on hand because as people start to talk about their losses, they can get upset. And sometimes, they get discouraged and angry,” said Harris.
People are suffering from stomach aches, headaches, nightmares and other physical symptoms of traumatic stress from their experiences with the two hurricanes. “People are having nightmares about running with their kids to get from the [rising] flood waters and are waking up in a sweat,” said Harris, who has been there for 3 weeks offering support."Such devastating, life-altering events can easily cause serious stress and emotional trauma. These mental health workers are in the shelters and service centers and even go out into some of the hardest-hit areas to offer words of comfort to victims, who want and need to talk about their feelings and experiences. Through the program, evacuees are being offered what the Red Cross calls “psychological first aid.”
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this disaster and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.