The trauma in Sandy’s wake

What victims and their children can do to get help


Usually time can heal all wounds, but Superstorm Sandy was eight months ago, and communities are still suffering. On June 18 at 6 p.m. at the East Rockaway Library, Robert S. Cavera held a meeting concerning the emotional aftermath of the storm.

Cavera is a doctoral student from the Child and Family Trauma Institute (CFTI) at Hofstra University. He and Dr. Robert W. Motta, Director of CFTI, have been hosting meetings together around Long Island for the past couple of months. The gatherings are mainly about post-traumatic stress disorder and how to treat it. Cavera said that PTSD occurs when people cannot get back to normal after an upsetting situation. It changes people’s worldviews and causes intense fear or a feeling of lack of control.

“People will call us and say, ‘I thought I’d be over it by now … but there’s still a hole in my roof, there’s still broken windows on my garage, there’s still mold growing in my basement,’” Cavera said.

The disorder, which can persist for years, affects the entire person and should be treated as soon as possible. Cavera said that people who ignore their stress levels, thinking that they’ve fixed their problem, but if they ignore it, they will eventually be worse off when it resurfaces in the future.

When discussing children’s reactions to Sandy, Cavera said they often take on their parents’ attitudes. He told the audience to recognize and treat suffering children as soon as possible; they often act withdrawn, moody, overly irritable, distracted and have sleep difficulties. He used examples about people from previous Sandy meetings and said that in many cases, neighbors and friends actually helped more than the counselors could. When residents discuss problems with each other, they discover that they aren’t alone.

“They’ve said, ‘We can get through this together; we can collaborate and work with one another, and then maybe we’ll be able to help each other out.’”

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