News Releases

January 19, 2012

Starting Over Strong Vermont - Healing Emotional Wounds from the 2011 Vermont Flooding

Many Vermonters were impacted by Tropical Storm Irene when it pounded most of Vermont with up to 12 inches of rain this past August. The statewide flooding destroyed homes, farms, and businesses, closed roads, and left much property in ruin. For many, the storm also inflicted devastating emotional trauma beyond their material losses. This less visible, personal anguish can often be overlooked by the affected individuals and their loved ones. Left unacknowledged and untreated, this kind of emotional injury can influence both the health and coping ability of disaster victims, and may even lead to long term problems.

In response to this urgent mental health concern, a new program, Starting Over Strong (SOS) Vermont, has been created to provide free short-term support for individuals, groups, and communities impacted by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. SOS Vermont Teams conduct community and home-based outreach, door-to-door counseling, and psycho-educational services at group meetings and programs, all free of charge.

Recognizing if you or someone you know could benefit from the services provided by SOS Vermont:

Not everyone affected by the storms and floods experiences a traumatic emotional reaction. Those who do, often react in their own unique way. People may express their internal struggle in a variety of different ways even in the course of the same day.

Some typical emotional reactions may include:

-Recurring dreams or nightmares about the storms or floods

-Trouble concentrating or remembering things

-Feeling numb, withdrawn or disconnected

-Having bursts of anger or intense irritability

-Persistent physical symptoms (i.e., headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension, etc.)

-Being overprotective of your familyís safety

-Avoiding reminders of the storm or flood

-Being tearful or crying for no apparent reason

Techniques for Managing Stress and Anxiety:

Each person gets through the emotional challenges of a disaster in their own time and on their own terms. The best predictor of how a person will react to a disaster is how they have reacted to other challenges in the past, and likewise, the best strategies for coping now are those strategies that have worked well in the past.

Useful suggestions for coping with the stress and anxiety stemming from storms and flooding:

-Limit your exposure to graphic news stories

-Get accurate, timely information from credible sources

-Educate yourself about specific hazards resulting from the flood, such as mold or structural problems

-Try to maintain your normal daily routine

-Exercise, eat well, and rest

-Stay active physically and mentally

-Communicate with friends, family, and supporters

-Use spirituality and your personal beliefs

-Keep a sense of humor

-Express yourself creatively

-Talk and share your feelings with others

-Seek out and follow the advice of experts

Above all, individuals should use the coping mechanisms that are most familiar, comfortable, and effective for them. Remember that you donít have to go it alone. It is okay to ask for help and there are services and strategies for coping with this kind of trauma.

SOS Vermont is supported by FEMA grant funding and is administered by Washington County Mental Health Services in conjunction with other designated mental health agencies and community services in the hardest hit regions of our State.

Call our Toll Free number: 1-855-767-8800. For more information contact Cathy Aikman, SOS VT Project Director, at 229-1399 or

Source: Department of Health
Last Updated at: January 19, 2012 10:19:15