With all the recent attention Hurricane Matthew is getting (and rightly so!), I’ve really wondered and worried about what’s happening to those veterans who have been forced to evacuate from their homes who have PTSD. It’s pretty frightening to think about having to go to an evacuation center when you have any kind of mental health disorder, but with PTSD, one of the symptoms is avoidance of other people. It’s hard to avoid other people when you’re sleeping in a gymnasium with hundreds of them!
Because I also have a diagnosis of PTSD, I really empathize with those individuals who are in this situation at this time. Having PTSD and coping with it on a daily basis can be difficult enough without having to be in an environment where you’re crowded and overwhelmed and worried about what’s happening to your home, your family and your friends. I keep thinking about how uncomfortable I’d be in the same situation.
I guess that’s why it’s so important to plan ahead for disaster situations. We all think nothing is going to happen to us, but things do happen and we need to have a plan for how we’re going to respond. For me, either going to a motel where I could have a room to myself, or going to a friend’s home where there weren’t so many people would be a best case scenario. Fortunately, I’ve made those arrangements in case something like this happens.
I recently spoke to a group of individuals who suffer from mental health issues. We talked about what it would be like to be in a disaster, how it might affect us and how we might respond. We all designed a plan so we’d have an alternative choice rather than having to go to public housing. Since nothing is carved in stone, we also talked about how we could cope with being in a public shelter if necessary.
Please, take the time to think about what your needs would be and how you could make the situation work if you needed to do so. Electing to stay put when the likelihood you’ll end up in extreme danger isn’t the best option. Thinking ahead and designing a plan you can fall back on is.
Some of the things to think about:
- Do you have extra medications packed and ready to go if you had to evacuate in a hurry?
- Do you have a contact person out –of-state you could call to let know you’re ok who could pass that information on to family and friends?
- Do you have transportation to an emergency shelter and anything packed in your Go Kit to make the stay there more private and more comfortable?
- Do you have a little money set aside for the event of an emergency so you could afford a motel if necessary?
- Do you have back up assistive technology items available? For example, if you use a power wheelchair, do you have a manual one available in the event of a long term power failure?