Crisis counselors encourage flood survivors to seek help during holiday season

Crisis counselors encourage flood survivors to seek help during holiday season

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas right around the corner, it is typically the most wonderful time of the year, but for folks still struggling after the August flood, it can be hard to find a reason to celebrate.

To help people cope with the uncertainty and sometimes hopelessness of the recovery process, crisis counseling services are now available through a state funded program called Louisiana Spirit, which is operating out of Disaster Recovery Centers.

"We're seeing an increase in people who are experiencing depression and anxiety," said Nicole Coarsey, who is coordinating the program. "They really don't know where to go or what to do."

Coarsey said counselors have been on hand since the flood, but she points out many signs of depression don't begin to show up until a few months after a traumatic event.

"At first, they're in a response mode. They just want to get their houses clean and they just want to get that dirty water out, get the sheetrock out and then a month or two later, that's kind of when a reality may set in," Coarsey added.

The reality, which in this case is crashing down right at the same time that the holidays are ramping up, is something Coarsey said can amplify negative feelings.

"They can't host a traditional Thanksgiving meal that they used to or the upcoming Christmas celebration and it really, really brings people down," Coarsey said.

Program manager, Ann Wilder, said simply talking with someone though can make a huge difference in relieving stress. She encourages everyone to seek help and not face this situation alone.

"We start with our survivors just helping them process," Wilder said. "Just talking about it helps us feel better and think better, even the children. They need to tell their story, too."

Crisis counselors say many of the concerns they are hearing now center on how long the process is taking and the realization that some deadlines may have to be adjusted.

"Their plan was to be home by Thanksgiving and they had that all mapped out and now they're not and so there's a little bit of despair and hopelessness," said David Laxton, one of the crisis counselors.

People may also feel overwhelmed with all the phone numbers and items piling up on the to-do list. While stress can show up differently in everyone, Coarsey said it is important to hit pause on fixing up their homes and be sure to take care of themselves.

"They may not think or feel like they're sad or upset or anxious, but once they come in and talk to one or our crisis counselors, they'll really be able to take that one extra thing off their plate," Coarsey explained.

Counselors say they do not share any personal information and also do not require people to sign up for any long term obligations.

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