Sadness. Grief. Depression. Sometimes, it’s just under the surface. You feel fine one moment and then someone or something sets you off and it’s all you can do to keep from falling apart. I am very familiar with these emotions as I saw a lot of this after Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast and nearly drowned New Orleans. My family and friends who live in New Orleans were all struggling just to make everyday things seem less hard. I remember one day my sister telling me I didn’t understand what they were going through. She said, “It’s not that simple! You don’t live here! Nothing’s the same!” I also heard from many friends and family members how they missed their neighbors or their church members; how they missed running into friends at the grocery store, or how they missed their hairdresser. Everything was different, foreign and a bit scary. My parents didn’t have mail delivery for over 5 months. I can’t remember how long it took the trash pickup to become regular, but I do remember seeing piles of debris and old refrigerators on the curb in every neighborhood in town. It was a mess, and it took its toll on the residents. The pain of loss, stress from uncertainty, fear of the unknown and the loss of the familiar were common issues after the storm. Katrina left her mark on the Crescent City and its citizens in more ways than any of us know.
I think the same can be said of those affected by the tornadoes and floods that have affected our Southeast region and the Midwest. The families involved in those tragedies are still struggling with the basic necessities, but we mustn’t forget their emotional and mental needs. The grief, frustration and stress may overwhelm them at times, just as they did with my family and friends. In those times of need they require more than just a place to stay or a hot meal. They need a friend to listen; a pastor to pray; a counselor to advise them. They need community. They need to know that they are not alone. There are many who, without help, may slip further into despair and grief, and fall to poor health, addiction or suicide. It doesn’t take much of a push when you’re already at ground zero.
For these reasons and many more it is so important to support programs for family counseling, mentoring and mental health. These programs provide assistance to struggling families and individuals to help them in their greatest times of need. As the economy stays stagnant it is even more important that we raise the awareness of the need for these programs. We shouldn’t wait until another disaster strikes and even more people are desperate for help. I’m so proud that United Way of the Greater Triangle supports many programs that focus on the care and support of families and their emotional and mental health needs. Mental health has few social or economic boundaries—we all need help from time to time. I can’t emphasize enough the impact that these programs make in the lives of those involved, and I encourage you to learn more about them. Because the more you know, the more we can work together and make a difference in the lives of others.