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

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.


Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo proposed establishing an immigrant legal defense fund for county residents at the Feb. 25 commissioners court meeting. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Harris County looks to establish immigrant legal defense fund

Hidalgo said this program would “inject a measure of fairness into our justice system” for individuals and families who do not have access to legal services.

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, along with the rest of the Commissioners Court, accepted the 2019 racial profiling report Feb. 25. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office releases 2019 racial profiling report

The report concludes the office does not have a racial profiling problem.

Lone Star College-Kingwood will break ground March 2 on the new Lone Star Health Professions Center. (Courtesy Lone Star College-Kingwood)
Lone Star College-Kingwood to break ground on new health professions center

Lone Star College-Kingwood will break ground March 2 on the new Lone Star Health Professions Center, which will be the home of five different health-related industries beginning in fall 2021.

Early voting is underway in Harris County for the March 2020 primary elections. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Voter turnout starts strong in Harris County primary elections

The early voting period runs through Feb. 28.

More than 20,000 Montgomery County residents have voted early since polls opened Feb. 18. (Courtesy Folio)
Montgomery County early voting turnout not on pace to meet 2016 rate

Local turnout appears to be falling below 2016 levels halfway through the county's early voting period.

Houston's first chief transportation officer will help the city coordinate its urban planning efforts with other agencies such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Department of Transportation. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Shifting focus from car culture, Houston hires first chief transportation planner

Houston's first chief transportation officer will help the city shift its focus from car-centric urban planning.

The special meeting Feb. 20 lasted nearly five hours. (Trevor Nolley/Community Impact Newspaper)
San Jacinto River Authority votes to continue Lake Conroe lowering with modifications

The board ultimately voted to change fall lowering while keeping spring lowering the same.

Levitated Metals will open in September in the East Montgomery County Industrial Park. (Courtesy East Montgomery County Improvement District)
Levitated Metals to bring specialty recycling to East Montgomery County Industrial Park

Levitated Metals, a specialty metal recycling company, broke ground Jan. 15 on its manufacturing facility at 18920 Celia Way, New Caney, in the East Montgomery County Industrial Park.

Jordan Brooks, market specialist at ALN Apartment Data, speaks at the Houston Apartment Association’s Montgomery County State of the Submarket Breakfast on Feb. 18. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Moderate growth in apartment rent, occupancy on Montgomery County's horizon

Experts: County well-positioned for moderate rent growth, average to above-average apartment occupancy for 2020 and 2021

Cheetos Cheese Pickles from Biggy's (Courtesy Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo)
Cheetos cheese pickles, mac and cheese eggrolls, deep-fried cheesecake: 93 food spots to try during the 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

From tried and true to something new, the food options at this year's Rodeo include classic staples and crazy concoctions.

Lone Star College System has $185 million remaining from its 2014 bond referendum. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College System updates 2014 bond project progress

Lone Star College System continues to make improvements to campuses through an $485 million bond that passed in 2014.

Early voting begins Feb. 18 in the 2020 Texas primary. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Primary election Q&A: 2 Republicans vie for state District 127 representative

Two candidates are vying for a place as the Republican candidate for state representative for District 127 in the March 3 primary election, including incumbent Dan Huberty and Dwight Ford.

Back to top