Monday, April 13, 2020

Connecting the dots on hurricanes and mental health issues



Connecting the dots on hurricanes and mental health issues


More people are likely to be affected—both physically and psychologically—by severe weather events in the future.

The 2017 hurricane season was the deadliest on record since 2005. Ten hurricanes occurred, including Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which also makes it the year with the highest number since 1966; tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, and damage to Puerto Rico’s electric grid left millions without power.

This increasing severity, intensity, and frequency of these devastating storms is linked to climate change and warming temperatures, which help drive more rainfall and higher wind speeds. "What we saw in 2017 is representative of what climate scientists have been saying all along," says James Shultz, director of the Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Worsening storms have destructive effects both on infrastructure and on the physical health of affected people. They also significantly increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health harms in individuals in the path of storms, Shultz and Zelde Espinel, a psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, reported in a presentation at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting this week.

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