'Nation will face a mental health impact from storm'



AS mental health discussions rise to the forefront in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday that there will be significant psychological impacts in the country as a result of the powerful Category Five storm.

“While we have seen the vast destruction of infrastructure, businesses and homes, the thing that we need to be most concerned about is the psychological, psychosocial impact that weighs heavily on this nation,” he said.

“Victims of Dorian continue to speak of loss of family members, friends, homes, jobs, and their livelihoods. We need to accept the fact that there will be significant psychological fallout from Dorian. That fallout will impact not just those we serve, but also me and those in the room.”

Dr Sands made these statements yesterday during a conference on mental health in the workplace held at the University of the Bahamas.

In his address, Dr Sands recalled the many visits he made to the storm-impacted islands since Dorian, adding that the experience alone is enough to “make grown people cry.”

“I have travelled to Grand Bahama multiple times and I’ve been to Abaco four times and I have heard, and I have seen the impact of Hurricane Dorian on people that can rock and has rocked me to my core,” he said.

He continued: “Now more than ever, the Ministry of Health and all the mental health professionals in this country have to use this opportunity for several things – for one, to demonstrate the efficacy of mental health services, but also to demonstrate the importance of the need to service the psychosocial needs of our population.”

One such psychological effect Dr Sands highlighted is post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We need to recognise that post-traumatic stress disorder does not only apply to those who experienced trauma but those who have witnessed it or know of somebody who has,” he said. “And so, we have not just 75,000 at-risk persons but we have 400,000 at-risk persons with PTSD.”

Considering these psychological impacts, Dr Sands suggested that the need to protect and safeguard people’s mental health in the wake of Dorian is more urgent than ever.

“We have never faced anything like Dorian and God-willing, we will never have to face anything like Dorian (again). So, our task now is indeed a massive one. Let us understand our mission and let us attack it with zeal,” he added.

“There are many people who are hurting and there are many people who are suffering. So, while resilience is important, we can never downplay the significance of persons talking to a trusted friend or to a trained counselor or mental health professional to ensure that they’re coping after this storm in a healthy way.”