People facing stress and anxiety in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle hitting regions in the North Island on the back of recent weather disasters should consider seeking mental health support, an Auckland clinical psychologist says.
Cyclone Gabrielle is starting to hit New Zealand at a time when Auckland is barely recovering from extreme floods that left four people dead and the city continues to be in a state of emergency.
Dr Hyunok Jeon, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Waikato and Auckland District Health Boards, said many individuals would have faced “overwhelming and distressing experiences” in the last two weeks as a result of the extreme weather event.
“There is a sense of collective trauma that Aucklanders are facing, and with this cyclone coming so soon after many are also feeling a sense of helplessness,” said Jeon, who now runs her own private practice.
She said the scale of the Auckland floods had traumatised a large population of people at once, and it was also sudden and overwhelming.
“A few people had lost their loved ones, many lost their homes. With constant reminders in the news that another big storm is coming, it could spark fear that the emotional event will be repeated,” Jeon said.
“It’s not just about losing physical and tangible things, but it’s more about their psychological self as well.”
She said those affected will often feel at a loss of what to do.
“In their minds, they will be thinking what will happen this time and how bad they will be hit,” Jeon said.
However, she said victims do not need to have experienced the disaster firsthand in order to be psychologically affected because, in this age of social media, the sharing of videos and images can affect anyone.
Jeon said it was important that people “take a step back, stop, pause and think” to get through this difficult period.
“First, they should be able to know and feel that they have the power to help themselves. Following emergency advice to be prepared, such as stocking up supplies and being sandbag ready could be a start,” she said.
Once that’s done, people could distract themselves from the cyclone by watching a drama on Netflix, reading a book, or doing some indoor gardening.
“If you find that your mind is racing or your heart is racing, find something to do....look around the house to see what needs doing,” Jeon said.
“For myself, I am planning to do some re-potting of my indoor plants to get my mind off things.
“The most important is that people should slow down, be in the present so that they can have more space in their minds to put things in perspective.”
She said it was also good if people could reach out and ask for support from people who they trust, who care about them, and who could listen and empathise with their situation.
However, she said if people noticed persistent feelings of distress or hopelessness in the aftermath, then it was important that they seek mental health support or professional help.
Where to get help
If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 , free text 234 or email email@example.com or online chat.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
• SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666.