Published 5:44 pm, Wednesday, November 1, 2017
With cold weather descending on Michigan, victims of summer flooding might experience more stress than usual this holiday season.
People who experienced home damage after record flooding in June are still seeking services to repair and replace their residence, said Jenifier Boyer, Midland County emergency management coordinator. Boyer worries that with holidays approaching, the stress from flooding aftermath will become worse and mental health might fall to the wayside.
“Some people might have so many different stages of shock,” Boyer said. “Sometimes you never deal with it emotionally.”
County and city officials are still working toward getting people the help they need in terms of financial resources and education for future flood events, Boyer said. With some homes still in need of repair, she hopes people don’t forget to maintain their mental health.
“It’s important to note that it’s common for people to struggle with emotion after a natural disaster,” said Deana Mason, program director for Midland Community Mental Health for Central Michigan.
At Midland Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, the number of referrals and crisis contacts remained “pretty steady” after summer flooding, Mason said. On average, the number of referrals and crisis contacts is higher in November, she said. Things usually slow down in December, then the biggest spike in people seeking services is in January.
“I haven’t heard there is a big uptick from people having trouble coping, but I don’t know that it’s something that a lot of people would seek help for right away,” said Kathy Dollard, director of behavioral health for MidMichigan Health. “There is still some stigma around mental health, and sometimes people don’t recognize it right away in themselves.”
For post disaster counseling, someone can get connected to services by calling 211, said Sarah Kile, executive director of 211 Northeast Michigan. They haven’t gotten many calls specifically in response to flooding since the event, Kile said, but during the flooding calls were “pretty rough.”
“Even for our call specialists, we had some pretty rough calls,” Kile said. “But once resources started coming in and we could refer folks to local help, that was life-changing for a lot of people.”
Flooding or no flooding, local mental health experts agreed Michigan winters can take a toll on mental health. Mason, Dollard and Kile offered some tips to maintaining mental health this winter:
• Seek out your circle of support and try not to isolate yourself.
• Try to limit alcohol consumption, nicotine and caffeine.
• Maintain a healthy sleep schedule, diet and exercise.
• Helping other people can brighten your mood: try volunteering.
• Take a pulse on your own mental health, and seek outside help if anxiety, sadness or depression prohibits you from daily tasks.
• Share experiences from summer flooding with others who went through it.
• Try to find breaks in work or daily schedule to go outside during daylight hours.
Paying for home repair and other unexpected large expenses after the flooding will put added financial strain on some families this holiday season, Kile said.
“There are very few unmet needs in Midland,” Kile said. “Start thinking right now what needs may be coming to get connected now. It will be so much easier to find programs that are readily available.”
Often people call for help during the holidays the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, which can make it more difficult to connect people with services, Kile said.
211 call lines are open 24/7, but most charitable Christmas programs for things like food and gift donations close in November, Kile said. If people think they will need extra help this year during the holidays, they should call now for help, she said.
To access mental health services, call 800-317-0708 for Midland Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, or 211.