Mental Health in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

By Andrew Tello


As recovery from the storm began, Houstonians found solace in each other. Linda Vogel (second from right) assisted many in her Kingwood community through caring and
outreach.
Photo courtesy of Linda Vogel.

When a hurricane strikes, those caught in its path often feel powerless to do little else but weather the storm. While physical damage is frequently synonymous with hurricanes, it represents only a fraction of the damage a natural disaster can bring. With a storm as intense as Hurricane Harvey,
trauma follows much like the sun when the storm clouds dissipate.
Some of the participants in the Resilient Houston: Documenting Hurricane Harvey project discussed how trauma remained with them even after the storm had left the region and how they grappled with it as best they could.


Though she escaped direct damage from the storm, Mary Jo Lagoski assisted those who were less fortunate by using her skills as a counselor
and as a leader.
Photo courtesy of Resilient Houston: Documenting Hurricane Harvey.

A licensed professional counselor, Mary Jo Lagoski specializes in EMDR therapy that focuses on dealing with and overcoming a traumatic event. She explained that the three basic responses to a trauma are “flight, fight, or freeze,” but “one way or the other, [survivors are] going to have a reac- tion.” Trauma from flooding, unlike some other events, lin- gers because when a person’s home floods, the situation does not quickly return to normal; instead it extends for months and, perhaps, years.

The trauma produced by Hurricane Harvey resembled the trauma people faced from earlier storms and carried with them for years. For example, Harvey was not the first storm Third Ward resident Gloria Rose survived. Originally a New Orleans resident, Gloria and her family crammed themselves into their two cars and took off in search of a dry place during Hurricane Katrina. They had to pause their escape at a bridge because the “pitch black” night made driving too difficult. Gloria recalled “[hearing] people falling off the bridge,” which was confirmed when daylight broke, and she “saw people on the ground that had expired.” The lingering memories of the sights coupled with the sounds of “children crying everywhere” may have caused Gloria, who is devoutly religious, to pray before Hurricane Ike, “Lord, don’t let it be as drastic as Katrina.”


Gloria Rose, seen at left speaking with Sherridan Schwartz at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, credits her faith for her survival. In times of crisis, prayer gave her strength to see things through.
Photo courtesy of Resilient Houston: Documenting Hurricane Harvey.

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Hope in the Forest is a community-wide effort to support and give hope to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Each tree is decorated and donated by someone who cares. All trees will be gifted to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  Read more here.


Mary Jo Lagoski is a native of Kansas and has lived in Kingwood for more than thirty years where she is a psychotherapist in private practice. Though her home was not affected during Hurricane Harvey, she and her family served as volunteers through their church First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood.

Even though Ana Vazao has experienced several hurricanes, she flooded for the first time during Hurricane Harvey.

Linda Vogel discusses her experience with the storm and her volunteer efforts in the Kingwood area.

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