Stress adds to the burdens of flooding, displacement

    Some New Jersey residents who’ve had to deal with Hurricane Irene and all the recent flooding are feeling the strain.

    People who’ve had to evacuate can experience emotional problems because of the loss of pets, property or cherished family photos, said

    Steve Crimando, the director of training for the disaster and terrorism branch of the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services.

    “A lot of the reaction we see tends to be typical traumatic stress reactions which many people find very disturbing,” he said. “Difficulty sleeping and eating and focusing and so forth. But a lot is grief and loss reactions as well. Perhaps just a sense of loss of community that that way of life might not be coming back.”

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    The start of school is adding to the anxiety for children.

    Talking with kids about what’s happening can help them get through the stress of dealing with the flooding, said Jeff Guenzel, director of the New Jersey Division of Child Behavioral Health Services.

    “As a caregiver, as a parent, you don’t want to use them as your person to vent to and to share too many of your anxieties,” he said. “But you definitely want to give them information about what’s going on so they know what to expect and it matches up with what they’re seeing.”

    Guenzel said the most important thing is to provide a safe environment and let kids express their concerns. He says many of them cope quickly with the stress, but lingering problems might warrant seeking professional counseling.

    Some people get over stressful situations quickly, Crimando agreed. For others, it can take months before the emotional consequences kick in. He suggested talking it over with a friend or reaching out for help from a professional counselor.

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