Mental health investigators favor a recovery policy that goes even beyond long-term counseling to support organizations and initiatives that help communities rebuild themselves. “It makes sense that if one of the problems people experience after disasters is loss of control, which is highly related to mental health problems, then having a vehicle for regaining at least some control would be helpful,” Norris says. Several grassroots efforts and microredevelopment plans have succeeded in a few communities, but scaling them up will require broader support.
Meanwhile, experts say, sending a public message that balances hope with realistic expectations for recovery is important. People need encouragement to seek professional help such as that offered by the Red Cross Access to Care program, Speier states. And they need a reliable recovery timeline, along with simultaneous return of schools, hospitals and a justice system so that they can more confidently invest in reestablishing themselves. “It’s important for people to know that time is critical,” Redlener says. “Most adults will be okay once they have homes and can return to normalcy. But thousands of children at critical developmental ages will now have been rootless for upward of two years, with yet incalculable consequences.”
This article was originally published with the title Suffering a Slow Recovery.