- Two more storm-response mental health initiatives were announced by First Lady Casey DeSantis on Tuesday
- The Family Support Line will pair individuals affected by Hurricane Ian with a peer that was impacted and recovered from Hurricane Michael. Volunteers will use personal experience to assist in guiding storm victims to recovery
- The state Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families is partnering with BetterHelp, an online therapy service, to provide three free months of therapy to those affected by the storm
- BetterHelp will tailor its services to storm victims, providing a variety of contact methods including text, phone, or video call
Two additional mental health resources are being made available to those directly affected by Hurricane Ian’s landfall, as announced by First Lady Casey DeSantis on Tuesday.
The first initiative, the Family Support Line, is operated through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and connects individuals and families who were impacted by Hurricane Ian with peers who were impacted and have recovered from Hurricane Michael.
Volunteers from the state panhandle will be encouraged to use personal experiences to provide support and advice for those experiencing the aftermath of a severe storm for the first time.
Participants will also be advised to direct storm victims toward resources available at the state, federal, and local levels, according to the Office of the Governor.
“Floridians in Southwest Florida have weathered the storm but will continue to encounter unseen challenges on the road to recovery,” said First Lady DeSantis. “We are building a network of support for these individuals to connect them with mental health experts and Floridians who have been in their shoes to foster meaningful conversations. Through the Family Support Line … we are creating opportunities for people to receive support.”
A second initiative partners the state Department of Health (DOH) and DCF with BetterHelp, an online mental health platform, to provide three free months of online therapy.
The outlet offers a brief questionnaire that allows the company to better tailor its services to ailing Floridians and arrange the optimum method of therapy.
Further, BetterHelp is allowing users to choose between a variety of communication methods with a therapist, including messaging, phone contact, or video calls.
“Mental health support should always be a major priority following a disaster, and you are not alone if you are feeling the weight of this tragedy,” said Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, DOH Deputy Secretary for Health. “There can be a drastic increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and other negative mental health impacts to public following a disaster. Florida wants to make sure survivors of Ian have readily available access to mental health resources at no cost.”
Earlier this month, a Florida Division of Emergency Management website was established for Hurricane Ian first responders to help with mental health needs post-hurricane.
The site directs users to a variety of bilingual mental health resource hotlines including ones specifically tailored for disaster response.
Through the portal, hotlines have been made available specific to different lines of first responder work including firefighting, law enforcement, and medical responders.
The portal additionally gives access to a series of training courses created to directly educate firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel about behavioral health issues such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and addictions, and firefighter suicides.
According to the U.S. Department of Health, it is common for individuals and families in and around the affected region to experience distress and anxiety about safety, health, and recovery.
Previous exposure to large-scale events, such as a severe hurricane or flood, may place residents and responders who experience a new disaster at greater risk for adverse stress reactions. Mental health symptoms experienced after a disaster-scale event may include emotional symptoms such as irritability or excessive sadness, cognitive dysfunction, physical symptoms such as headache, stomach pain, or difficulty breathing, behavioral reactions like alcohol consumption, or a failure to adhere to needed physical or psychiatric medication needs.