Sunday, July 17, 2005

Post -Tropical Depression

We know about Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. But is it possible for an entire county to become clinically depressed?

In the days immediately preceding and following Hurricane Dennis, everywhere one went the same scene was encountered. Always the same, no matter the venue -- in gas lines; at the few open convenience stores; inside grocery stores where shelves were stripped bare; and in hardware stores and lumber yards where batteries, plywood and electric generators were flying out the door. Wherever one went, there were glum faces, teary-eyed strangers, and hang-dog locals giving public vent to their personal frustrations, anger, and a manifest sense of helplessness.

Typical were comments like these:
"I'm too old to go through this again.

"Not again! It just isn't fair!"

"We just finished repairing our home. Oh, god, what will we do now?"

"This is it -- we're leaving."

"My wife and I just can't take it anymore."
Often enough, these comments were preface to long and intimate tales told to strangers of family travail and tragedy caused or substantially aggravated by the tropical storms that have repeatedely targeted Northwest Florida.

The stories were of wives or husbands, already frail or ill, who died within a few days of Ivan or Dennis. Inconsolable grief over precious personal possessions lost -- family photo albums, heirlooms from past generations, irreplaceable memoribilia of youth, the carefully preserved tangible evidence of a lifetime. Elderly couples speaking to strangers about their worries over losing their homes and the bleak prospect of starting all over from scratch. Young people who see mountains of trash around them and vow to move away at the fuirst opportunity. Home owners and business people chagrinned that they had not sold out when they had a chance, before the storms changed everything.

In the past few days a few news reporters have begun to systematically catalogue the despair affecting so many in Northwest Florida. The unfortunately named Brady Dennis of the St. Petersburg Times in last Sunday's edition describes a "long, slow, detour-filled day" spent interviewing five victims of Hurricane Dennis "from Navarre on the west to St. Marks on the east."
U.S. 98 is a highway made unwhole by Dennis' wind and water, a road with washed-out homes and mountains of debris. A road heavy with the smell of mildew and loud with bulldozers and clanging hammers.

Along the way, we encountered defeat and determination, acceptance and anger, heartache and happiness. And an important lesson: Every storm, big or small, alters lives.
Carlton Proctor of the Pensacola New Journal expanded on that same theme in a lengthier Sunday front page story titled, "Two storms too much to endure: Dennis rekindles distress in Ivan survivors."

Give Proctor an 'A' for effort in trying to quantify what many sense, although the empirical evidence remains thin:
Psychiatric admissions are up 10 percent over this time last year, said Nancy Ramos, director of the Behavioral Medicine Center at Baptist Hospital. She called the 10 percent increase "a really big increase." It's not uncommon, especially on weekends, for every psychiatric bed in the Pensacola Bay Area to be occupied so that patients have to be transferred as far away as Panama City, she said.

"People's resilience is just gone," she said. "We know people have coping skills and reserves of energy, but that energy is being eroded now. There's only so much there."
The same theme also can be found embedded in the first post-Dennis issue of the Navarre Press . "Hurricane Dennis No Ivan" reads the top headline for editor Michael Stewart's very good main story. But Suzanne Stearns's below-the-fold article tells the darker side. The title:

Some Locals Find Hurricane Dennis Just As Bad
Or Worse Than Ivan

Still, however slowly, recovery is underway. Homes and businesses are beginning to be rebuilt. The community will rebound sooner or later. If only someone at the state level -- a governor, say, or the Financial Services Director -- would pound some sense into Citizens Property Insurance, even the 80% or so of damaged beach dwellings would at long last be able to start repairs.

Like the storm itself, eventually the post-tropical depression that has settled over the Pensacola area will lift. Things will get better. Life will return to normal.

Until the next hurricane, that is. On average, that should be 3.05 years from now.

In the meantime, it's important to remember Ben Franklin's wisdom:

"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."


Pensacola Beach No High Rises !! said...

I will drink to that !!
I cannot even come close to understanding what it must be like to have two huricanes hit that close together.

Anonymous said...

Wednesday, August 3, 2005
The Answer to Post-Tropical Depression

I’ll admit it. When we arrived back to our little piece of paradise, I was overwhelmed, even depressed. Our house in Navarre was still standing, but that was it. Hurricane Dennis had taken down every tree in our yard. All twelve trees had fallen on something, several on our house. The others were bent over and taunting me, like the last straw to break the camel’s back. Still, I thought, my family was safe and that was enough.

Dr. John Carnes, Ph.D is a psychologist who provided extensive counseling to the victims of Hurricane Andrew. “The first few days after a disaster we are running on adrenaline. We exist in a ‘honeymoon’ period, just thankful to be alive. As the days go by (and the lines for everything get longer,) the honeymoon comes to an abrupt end. The adrenaline is replaced with fatigue and it begins to take its toll. Depression sets in,” says Dr. Carnes.

Everything seems to be a struggle. With no electricity and no phone, all connection to the outside world is lost. The information received is by word of mouth from folks at the grocery store or perhaps from those waiting in the line with you at the gas pump. The line through the disaster relief station moves too fast to convey information, but it does bring a little relief: at least the car has air conditioning!

Soon, depression changes into anger and starts to strangle you. At first, you are just impatient with your children, or annoyed by the kid packing your groceries. But soon the anger is full blown and you find yourself yelling at the gas pump because someone darted in front of you. As the last feeling of control flies away from you, it is replaced with a blood boiling anger.” How,” we wonder, “will we ever get through this?”

I have seen adults crumble before my very eyes, hopeless in despair. I’ve watched news reports telling us stories of desperate hurricane survivors. And I have heard of the scoundrels charging outrageous prices to take advantage of storm victims. And yes, these are horrible, seemingly insurmountable circumstances, but I’ve seen something else too. I have witnessed the resilience of the human spirit. It has been unmistakable in our children!

I have watched our children deal with hurricanes Ivan and Dennis with composure and grace. Growing up in Massachusetts, I knew the meaning of blizzards and ice storms but had never experienced a hurricane. Our native Floridian children have learned of M.R.E.s and of Disaster Relief Stations. They’ve helped friends, neighbors, and even strangers. They've ripped out wet carpet from damaged homes, cut down trees and hauled debris to the roadside. They sifted through personal items of friends to see what could be saved. I watched, as our youngest daughter gently wiped mud from a family picture album in an effort to salvage a few precious memories. These children have worked very hard during their summer ‘vacation’ and their witness of hope has been tremendous. That hope can conquer depression.

As the clouds left behind from Hurricane Dennis lift, other events offer hope too. Two days after the storm, the telephone came back on, and later, the power was restored. The FEMA representative came and promised payment for that new chainsaw and the All State agent arrived and… well, a little anger slips in here and there. But mostly, we are climbing out from under the debris of the hurricane, and the debris of our anger.

Professionals tell us to talk to our children about what happened and ways to deal with their emotions. “Reassure your child,” recommends Dr. Jerry Aldridge, Ed.D, professor of early childhood education at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. “If you are frightened, tell your child. Don’t minimize the danger, but also talk about your ability to cope with your anxiety and to continue your life.” I say, "Listen to what the children have to teach us."

These tragic experiences have woven character, compassion and gratitude into their hearts...and ours too. We are so thankful that God has given us these great teenagers! We love Navarre, and, although our home and property were more damaged this time than in Hurricane Ivan, we don't want to move. We want to stay here and make our home safer. We want to
help our friends, neighbors, and community, rebuild. And we'll share the answer to post-tropical depression: hope.

mhelvin said...

There are a variety of different mental health disorders that can be associated with Dual Diagnosis. Some of these disorders include: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anti-social personality disorder, narcissistic personality, and depression.

Depression is a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by extreme feelings of sadness, anehedonia (or loss of pleasure), guilt, helplessness or hopelessness, an inability to concentrate, an increase or decrease of appetite, and thoughts of death. Depressive illness often interferes with an individual's normal functioning and often goes without being diagnosed for long periods of time causing a lot of problems for the both the individual with the illness and those around them.
Depression involves the body, mood and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about themselves and the way one approaches life in general.