Heavy rain and storm surges have made 2014 pretty miserable for many of us (so far), and have been devastating for many of those affected by the widespread flooding in southern parts of the UK. What are the psychological impacts of flooding like this?
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) published a document in 2012 called Flooding and mental health: essential information for front-line responders. While stressing that resilience and strong social support helps the majority of victims of flooding cope with the immediate distress without developing longer-term health problems, this interesting document highlights the importance of the co-called ‘Recovery Gap’: the period after emergency service support has ended and people then have to rely on the private sector: for example, insurance companies and banking services.
The HPA notes that a number of studies point to increases in the incidence of common mental disorders (including depression, substance use and misuse, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder) following flooding. Anxiety in particular is often linked to fears of flooding events happening again. The main issues are with existing mental health problems being exacerbated by the experience of flooding, but a minority of cases are of people developing mental illness because of the stress and anxiety involved.