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Mental Health in Disasters

When the World Trade Center was attacked, people were glued to their TVs.  When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana or the LA riots of 92’, we were cemented to the TV.  Now it is the ongoing recovery from the Lahaina fires.  But it’s different now, this is right across the water from Molokai.  This involves our home, our ‘ohana, our coworkers, and our friends.  It’s all over the news, social media, and it’s in the hearts and minds of our community, every day.  I set out to fish the shores of Molokai and I find myself staring at the charred remains of Lahaina.

Hearing the stories and watching the videos of the disaster can be a lot to see and listen to.  We’re going to feel that pain as if we were there, especially if we tend to easily put ourselves in the shoes of others.  Difficult emotions run high, we feel helpless, and it all can be overwhelming.  I’ve had to limit my exposure to the stories and media on the fires.  I’m no stranger to trauma and I know when to pump the brakes and take care of myself.  If we want to help, it’s important that we’re actually helpful.  If we’re struggling with the trauma of it all, we are not going to be very helpful.

Do something peaceful and enjoyable regularly to keep your heart positive.  Exercise can help you feel like you’re doing something when there’s nothing you can do.  Go for a peaceful walk on the beach or in the mountains.  If prayer and meditation help, don’t hesitate to make this a regular part of your day. Talk with kupuna, they likely have experience with disasters.  And if your heart is still struggling, go get help.  Talk to a psychologist in Melbourne and take care of your mental health.  

Aaron Mitchell, MS, MHC


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