Stressful situation: Is flooding in southern Wisconsin taking an emotional toll on you?

Stressful situation: Is flooding in southern Wisconsin taking an emotional toll on you?

Flooding is affecting people throughout Wisconsin, causing people to lose their homes, cars and possessions.

“This particular flooding is so widespread and encompasses so many people,” said Naomi Berkowitz, the disaster mental health chief for the American Red Cross. “It’s definitely high on that list of stressful situations.”

The Red Cross is sending caseworkers and other staff members throughout the areas affected by flooding and offering support to those who need it.

Berkowitz said in identifying people who are affected emotionally after a disaster, caseworkers look for people who are physically or mentally drained, easily frustrated, arguing more with people close to them, have changes in appetite or sleep, or are starting to participate in “high-risk behaviors,” like drinking or drug use.

“We encourage people to take care of their safety first,” she said.

That, she said, includes paying attention to physical health needs, not ignoring medical issues and staying away from flooded roads.

If you feel like the aftermath of flooding is taking an emotional toll on you, Berkowitz offered these tips:

Eat healthfully and maintain a well-balanced diet.
Sleep, and give your mind and body a break from the situation.
Stay connected with friends and family.
Be patient with yourself and the people around you.
Set priorities.
Tackle small tasks as you’re cleaning up damage from floodwaters.
Gather information about resources out there.
Stay as positive as you can.

“There are certain things that may trigger a stress reaction,” Berkowitz said, adding that a stress reaction could come months from now. “It could be a sight. It could be a smell.”

Examples she gave included the sight of rain falling, the smell of mildew or the anniversary date of flooding.

The Red Cross will have mental health professionals available Saturday for people in need who attend their resource events at La Valle Town Hall and Reedsburg Library.

People who need help can also call the Red Cross disaster hotline at 888-700-7051. They should leave their contact information and someone will get back to them with a range of resources available.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is also sharing coping tips for people affected by recent flooding and storms. Those tips can be found here.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to a disaster. The Disaster Distress Helpline is toll-free, multilingual and confidential, and can be reached by calling 800-985-5990 or by texting TalkWithUs to 66746.