Coping in the aftermath of a trauma
Experiencing a flood can be frightening, and the activities of normal life can be disrupted. For most people, feeling temporarily distressed does not interfere with their abilities to cope with the process of recovery. However, it is important not to underestimate the stress and strain of being flooded and cleaning up after floods.
Take the time to consider your and your family's mental health and well-being. Do not overdo it when cleaning up, and remember that tiredness, difficulty sleeping and anxiety are normal in these circumstances.
While the experience of a flood can be distressing, events that occur after a flood can also be a source of stress. They include:
- Difficulties accessing continuing healthcare and prescription medications
- Difficulties with getting healthcare for new health problems
- Disruption to normal household activities and separation from family and friends
- Loss of school facilities and interrupted attendance at school, feelings of loss of control and worry that flooding may reoccur
- Seeking compensation, recovery and re-building of homes, submitting an insurance claim
- Loss of employment and /or income, and loss of physical possessions
While experiencing a flood is distressing, only a small minority of people are at risk of going on to develop further mental health problems. If a person's symptoms persist, they should visit their GP who can help to identify further sources of support.
What you can do
Support from families, friends and neighbours is key to helping to protect people from the negative impacts of flooding on mental health. Getting in touch and staying together with families and friends can help to reduce the suffering and promote recovery of people who are affected. Community groups and interactions with local sources of support, including councils and agencies tasked with helping in recovery efforts, also help to provide support.
If you are helping someone who has been affected by flooding, there are simple techniques that you can use to offer support. These include:
- First, assess the situation and ensure that a person's circumstances are safe, and help them to make contact with recovery agencies if needed
- Check that there are no immediate physical health needs, for example those that may require an ambulance or a hospital visit
- Ask about needs and concerns, and identify if any basic needs are not met, such access to food, water, shelter and medication
- Help people to contact their loved ones and others who can provide familiar sources of support
- Help to identify practical ways to address people's needs and access to services
- Listen, provide information if you have it, and help people to make plans for next steps
It is often useful, before you offer to help, to become familiar with the nature of the flooding event, identify how those affected can access help and whether there are further flood risks in the near future.
For more health advice, take a look at the Public Health England guidance on Flooding health advice on the Gov.uk website.
Follow the advice of your local water company regarding the safety of the water supply. If in doubt, boil all water intended for drinking, brushing teeth, washing food and cooking. Thames Water has provided more information on water quality.
Keep your home and possessions safe
If you need to leave your property, make sure that it's left secure to reduce the risk of burglars breaking in. You also need to be careful of doorstep callers who may trick or steal from you. They may try to gain entry by asking to turn off water or check the electricity.
Guidance and information on ways to protect your home can be found on the Surrey Police website.