Disaster Distress Helpline continues to receive calls relating to Hurricane Ian

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Six months after hurricane Ian, we’ve come to equate ‘recovery’ in terms of rebuilding and reopenings, but a considerable part of the process is mentally recuperating.

Immediately following the hurricane, a national, government-sponsored hotline devoted to supporting people after major disasters opened for calls.

The Disaster Distress Helpline is a government-sanctioned hotline, available 24-7 to help people deal with these traumas. WINK News spoke with the program’s director, who said Ian is still the dominant disaster in terms of mental health.

It feels like yesterday to many people in Southwest Florida. The winds have calmed, but for some, the storm is still raging in their mind. Calls to the National Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, reflect that.

“What we’re seeing with Hurricane Ian, in particular, is a sustained volume over time. In fact, in the most recent month for which we had available data, hurricanes are still the most common presenting issue across all disaster types for this as a national service, which tells us something that people are still reaching out six months after Hurricane Ian,” said Christian Burgess, director of the Disaster Distress Helpline.

In the first two weeks following Ian. There were 332 calls to the toll-free number, coming from the 239 area code. Burgess said it calls ebb and flow.

“It typically spikes in the immediate aftermath of a disaster event. Gradually starts to go down as recovery progresses and continues, but then will spike again when the next major disaster happens. And that could also include what we call activating events. So even if a person impacted by Hurricane Ian might be moving forward on the path of recovery, that when another hurricane is forecast or is set to impact the United States, even if it’s not in the same area, that person can still be activated by that event, painful memories or associations from Hurricane Ian could come back up,” said Hurricane.

To the present, trained disaster counselors fielded 806 ‘239’ area code calls. It tells them even half a year later; people are still struggling “Who have experienced loss, who have experienced property damage or destruction who witnessed scenes of devastating trauma, those who face a longer rebuilding and recovery process. The Disaster Distress Helpline was created for all of these people,” said Burgess.

Asking for help, if you need it, is the first step in the personal road to recovery. Calls from Florida are up 200% this March compared to March the year before. The call line helps with immediate needs but can also direct people to other resources.

You can learn more about the Disaster Distress Helpline by clicking here. You can also call 1-800-985-5990 if you need to speak with someone.

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