Kingwood residents heal from disaster trauma 2 years post-Harvey

Mental Health America of Greater Houston, a Houston-area nonprofit, offered mental health workshops in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Mental Health America of Greater Houston, a Houston-area nonprofit, offered mental health workshops in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Image description
Healing from Harvey
Editor's note: This story is Part 3 of a three-part series looking at how Hurricane Harvey continues to affect the Kingwood area two years after the storm.




Kingwood resident Daryl Palmer can still remember the face of a roughly 90-year-old woman who he helped transport from a flooded Kingwood nursing home to a nearby landing site for rescue helicopters during Hurricane Harvey. Although she had a fractured pelvis, Palmer said the unknown woman was smiling as she was transported from floodwaters.

“She’s flashing smiles and saying, ‘Thank you so much for helping me,’ and every time they moved her, she was just [in so much pain],” Palmer said. “That was one of the hardest moments of that whole storm. … That’s the image that sticks in my mind.”

Mental health care experts said experiencing a natural disaster, such as Harvey, can create lasting effects on individuals’ psyche for months or even years after. Now, local and state agencies are surveying residents to gauge mental health conditions caused by the storm as well as forming collaborations to ensure there are proper mental health resources in place to handle future natural disasters.

Licensed Professional Counselor Marty Lerman, who is the founder of Kingwood organization Allied Mental Health, said people who have gone through natural disasters in which they may have lost their homes and belongings may feel anxious and distressed when subsequent rain events have occurred.

These feelings can lead to symptoms such as headaches, nail biting, panic attacks, eating and sleeping disorders, or even alcohol abuse, Lerman said. His organization hosted a “Rainxiety” event in May following heavy rains that hit parts of Kingwood to help residents deal with the distress.

“When these kinds of things happen, probably about 90% of the population that needs help does not get it, and about 10% does get it,” he said.

Assessing mental health post-Harvey


The Hurricane Harvey Registry, a Houston-area organization, is studying the long-term impact of Harvey on housing, physical health and mental health to better help agencies provide disaster assistance. The organization released its initial report in February, and officials said more comprehensive reports will be available in the future.

The report showed 59% of respondents reported they often or sometimes think about Harvey when they did not mean to, while 32% of respondents said they were aware they still had a lot of feelings about it, but they did not deal with them.

Joally Canales, community outreach coordinator for the Hurricane Harvey Registry, said mental recovery from disasters is sometimes described as happening in waves.

“You have, kind of, the honeymoon stage after the disaster where everyone is helping each other and there’s hope,” Canales said. “Then a few months pass, and you feel like people have forgotten about you.”

The registry’s data includes feedback from 9,798 people who registered as of Jan. 1. However, as of early April, 637 Kingwood and Lake Houston-area residents were included among the more than 16,500 registrants, she said.

The organization is also compiling neighborhood-specific data to provide a more in-depth look at Harvey’s psychological and physical effect on communities in the Greater Houston area. Canales said she hopes the data will be used by lawmakers, local officials and health care professionals to address the needs of the region.

Meanwhile, the Houston Harris County Disaster Behavioral Health Initiative—a partnership led by the Network of Behavioral Health Providers with the city of Houston, Harris County and the state of Texas—was launched by the NBHP in June, said Sue Levin, co-chair of the NBHP’s initiative.

Levin said the project, which is funded by the Houston Endowment, forms long-term coordination efforts between local and state entities to better address mental health conditions that could arise from future disasters.

“[We] will be more likely and able to access each others’ resources and not duplicate efforts and step on each others’ toes,” she said.

Strategies, resources to help


Mental health experts said there are several strategies people can use to fight the anxious feelings surrounding these rain events, including doing emergency preparations.

“Anticipating what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family and your belongings … that puts you into a mindset of action,” Lerman said.

Additionally, Mental Health America of Greater Houston, an education and advocacy nonprofit, provides free mental health workshops to residents, schools, first responders, disaster-case managers and others involved in Harvey-recovery efforts.

MHA Program Specialist Tilicia Johnson said workshop requests have increased in the two years since the storm. To help offer these services, the MHA has received more than $1 million from local foundations and donations.

The MHA’s self-care workshop helps people identify why they may be feeling stress or fatigue, and gives recommendations on how people can cope and build resiliency after the storm. Johnson said some techniques include practicing deep breathing.

“We also encourage residents to do things they enjoy doing, so if that’s taking a walk with a pet or talking with a friend ... to reset their mood and emotional well-being,” Johnson said.

Read other stories from the three-part series: Fighting for funding and Recovery in retail.
By Kelly Schafler

Managing editor, South Houston

Kelly joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in June 2017 after majoring in print journalism and creative writing at the University of Houston. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor for the Lake Houston-Humble-Kingwood edition and began covering the Spring and Klein area as well in August 2020. In June 2021, Kelly was promoted to South Houston managing editor.



MOST RECENT

The median home price in the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto area has risen considerably since last October. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Home sales, costs in Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto remain hotter than Greater Austin; Halal Guys opens in Pearland and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 29.

Montgomery County municipalities continue to receive increased sales tax allocations from the previous year as Texas recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jishnu Nair/Community Impact Newspaper)
Conroe receives over $6 million in November state sales tax allocations; Montgomery County cities show continual year over year growth

Montgomery County municipalities continue to receive increased sales tax allocations from the previous year as Texas recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioners on Nov. 22 voted to approve a density change to preliminary plans for The Preserve, a neighborhood that city documents said could include 565 single-family homes at the northeast corner of Teel and Panther Creek Parkways. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Neighborhood near PGA Frisco could see larger lots; ERCOT says Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 24.

A health expert with Baylor College of Medicine provides advice to stay safe and healthy while celebrating Thanksgiving with family. (Karolina Grabowska/Pexels)
Baylor College of Medicine: Tips for staying safe and healthy this Thanksgiving as the pandemic continues

Check out some helpful advice from a medical expert on how to stay safe and healthy during Thanksgiving.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sits beside Samsung CEO Dr. Kinam Kim as he announces the company is brining a $17 billion facility to Taylor. (Screnshot via KXAN)
Samsung makes it official: Announcement from Governor's Mansion confirms $17B facility coming to Taylor

Nearly a year after Williamson County officials began pitching Samsung to bring a megafacility to the area, the electronics giant has made it official.

Included in Holy Trinity Episcopal School's $2 million expansion is the campus' new genius lab, which allows students to apply their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math with hands-on activities and learning tools. (Courtesy Holy Trinity Episcopal School)
Lake Houston's Holy Trinity Episcopal School touts $2M expansion

Holy Trinity Episcopal School officials recently announced the completion of roughly $2 million in renovations and expansions at its Lake Houston campus.

Bill Curci is a chief operating partner for Shuck Me, a seafood restaurant in Fort Worth. (Bailey Lewis/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Fort Worth restaurant Shuck Me is fishing- and family-centric; a guide to Houston's 2021 Thanksgiving Day Parade and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 23.

PTSD Foundation of America seeks to reduce veteran suicides

An average of 17.2 veterans died by suicide daily in 2019—a 36% increase from 2001, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in September.

Texas Medical Center coronavirus update: ICU numbers drop almost 20%; new hospitalizations plateau

Heading into Thanksgiving, here is the status of COVID-19 in Texas Medical Center hospitals.

Read below to find out where to donate items or money to local organizations. (Photo courtesy Canva)
Where to donate for Thanksgiving this year in Houston

For those looking to give items or monetary donations for Thanksgiving this year, check out these organizations that help feed Houstonians on Thanksgiving.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during Winter Storm Uri in February. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand

The state's electric grid manager also said extreme weather could once again result in outages.