(Photo Credit: Provided)
Deep trauma from the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 surfaced last week when hurricane Dorian had some impact in the Territory, and both Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie and Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration and Ninth District Representative, Hon. Vincent Wheatley said that something will need to be done to deal with this psychological community issue.
The legislators made the comments during the continued sitting of the House of Assembly on September 2.
The situation was first noted by Premier Fahie, who told the House, “Mr. Speaker, one issue that emerged during this event is the fact that many of our citizens continue to suffer with lingering effects of the trauma of their experiences with Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.”
According to the Premier, persons were reacting to news of Hurricane Dorian as if it was another passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“For many, Mr. Speaker, the arrival of Dorian caused them to relive some of the horrors and anxiety of what they went through just two short years ago,” the Premier told the House of Assembly.
Therefore, Hon. Fahie stated that some sort of intervention is needed to assist persons who are still going through emotional pain from their 2017 experiences. The Premier told the House of Assembly that the Minster of Health, Hon. Carvin Malone was asked to look into providing assistance in this regard.
Hon. Fahie said, “Mr. Speaker, the emotional and mental health and wellbeing of our people is of optimum importance, and in that regard, I have asked the Honourable Minister of Health and Social Development to have his team examine the issue and to offer proposals on how we can help our people to cope with and overcome the effects which that experience had on their psyche.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Labour and Ninth District Representative, Hon. Vincent Wheatley told the House of Assembly that he witnessed some of the lingering trauma when he went to visit his constituents prior to the passage of the storm.
“Just before the hurricane, I had a notion that I should go around and check on people. I went to the first home and I realized this person was living Irma as if Irma was upon us once more; panicked, frightened, uncertain. I went to a second home, same thing. People have not healed as yet from the ravages of hurricane Irma,” Hon. Wheatley told the House of Assembly.
In explaining how serious this psychological situation is, the Minister for Labour said that he has also experienced hurricane related panic.
“It is as vivid to them today as it was yesterday. Even me too, whenever the wind blows up a little 6o knots, you swear it’s 200, it’s a hurricane – is the window going to blow in? All memories from Irma just flood you one time.”
Hon. Wheatley said that the level of fear was so great that residents left their proper homes and honkered down in shelters, even though there was no reason to do so.
“I went to seniors’ homes – I went to both shelters on Virgin Gorda – sat with the people in the shelters, they’re freaking out. Some of their homes are better than the home I was in, but they felt a little more comfortable being in a shelter knowing that there would be better help. I went to the shelter and I sat, I spoke with them and reassured them,” Hon. Wheatley added.
Now that Dorian has passed, the Minister for Labour said that intervention is needed as part of the ongoing hurricane preparations efforts.
“What we need to do going forward is before the hurricane, make sure people are properly prepared, not only in terms of food, water and medicine, but that they’re emotionally prepared to deal with a storm. I don’t think they were emotionally prepared this time,” he stated.