This stormy time is our region’s 9/11
For better or worse, disasters generate comparisons. There are instant lists of how the Tornados of 2011 compare to other tornados in American history. That is extended out to other natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. It’s only one more step to other man-made tragedies. Sept. 11, 2001 comes to mind.
This is our 9/11, with differences. Instead of being localized to one block of a crowded city, it is spread over six or more states. And within those states, it is not just lives, but houses and businesses, whole neighborhoods, whole towns and cities, that are crippled or gone.
Most of all, there are no global controversies or politics to argue about, no al-Qaeda, no questions about who bungled New Orleans, no fingers to point. There is no one to blame.
But there are thoughts and questions, difficult and disturbing ones. We look at our own sets of troubles, undoubtedly real, and then look at those who lost their lives or loved ones, or at least lost everything else. If we gave ourselves license to feel sorry for ourselves before, bemoaning our circumstances, is that license now revoked?
We spend years trying to figure out what disasters like 9/11 mean. We will be looking for answers to this too. Our vision and faith are tested. Some will see this as part of a theology, others will wonder, and others will chalk it up to a tragic and unfortunate roll of the dice.
We are at a lull in the storms, but spring is not over in this exceptional year. Certain or uncertain about what it means, we stare in disbelief at the scenes, or if we know the people, feel our hearts cut open a little. One and all, standing among the wreckage of their lives, the survivors say one thing: it’s good to be alive. It is good to be alive.
Children’s mental health issues drawn to the front
In recognition of May 3 (Tuesday) as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, I would like to encourage all Mississippians to learn more about children’s mental health issues. The Mississippi Department of Mental Health and many others are joining together to help build resilience in young children dealing with trauma.
Mississippi’s children have faced many different traumatic situations over the last several years from Hurricane Katrina to the recent tornadoes that swept through our state. It is vital for loved ones to recognize warning signs and learn ways to help children cope with traumatic events. After a traumatic event, children may be upset, distracted, or feel out of sorts. They may also be bothered by nightmares or upsetting thoughts and images that come to mind. These are normal reactions to very stressful events. With the help of family and friends, most people gradually feel better as time goes by. There are several things you can do to help children cope with traumatic events. Remember to let them know you understand their feelings and remind them that they really are safe. Even though it may be difficult, try to keep to your usual routines. It is important to keep children from seeing too many frightening pictures of the events. Also, educate yourself about how to talk to children of different ages about trauma.
Addressing the complex mental health needs of children, youth, and families is fundamental to the future of Mississippi. Nearly 35,000 of Mississippi’s children and youth have severe and persistent mental health needs which can impact every aspect of their lives. These children and youth come from Mississippi’s cities, suburbs and rural areas; from wealthy, middle-class and poor families; and from every race and culture.
Mental health is important at every stage in life. A child’s mental health can affect their mood and behavior and the way they think and feel about themselves. The need for comprehensive, intensive mental health services coordinated with high quality services from education, health, Medicaid, foster care, juvenile justice and vocational rehabilitation agencies places upon our communities a critical responsibility to claim these children, youth and families as our own.
Families who need mental help services or support for their children can call the Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s Helpline at 1-877-210-8513 for more information.
Edwin C. LeGrand III
Mississippi Department of Mental Health
NEMS Daily Journal