Flooding can have profound effects on people’s mental health and wellbeing that may continue over extended periods of time. Distress is a common reaction for people following a flood. Distress is usually temporary; most people are resilient and cope with being flooded despite being distressed by it.
A minority of people are at risk of going on to develop a mental disorder. If a person’s symptoms persist, they should visit their GP who can help to identify further sources of support.
Schools play a critical role in supporting the mental wellbeing of their students, especially after a traumatic event. The aftermath of widespread floods can have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of students in affected communities. Schools are often in a unique position to provide support to these students.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health recognises this and has outlined a framework for psychosocial support in emergencies. This framework provides guidelines for schools and other organisations to follow in order to support the mental health of those affected by a disaster such as widespread floods.
Key steps that schools can take to help support their students:
Provide a coordinated and comprehensive response in the aftermath of a disaster. This includes providing emotional support and practical assistance to those affected, as well as promoting resilience and reducing the risk of long-term mental health problems.
Provide information. Schools can provide students and their families with clear and accurate information about the situation and the resources available to them. This includes information on how to access support services such as counselling and mental health services.
Provide emotional support. Schools can create a supportive environment where students feel safe and able to express their feelings and emotions. This can include activities such as peer support groups, individual counselling, and structured debriefing sessions.
Provide practical assistance to students and their families affected by the floods. This could include support with accessing food, clothing, and temporary housing, as well as helping students return to their normal routine as soon as possible.
Promote resilience in the aftermath of a disaster. Schools can help students develop resilience by teaching them coping skills and providing opportunities for them to become involved in community activities. This can help them feel a sense of control and purpose, and reduce the risk of long-term mental health problems.
Provide ongoing support for those affected by the floods. This includes providing ongoing counselling and mental health services, as well as ongoing support for students as they return to their normal routines.
By following the guidelines outlined in the framework for psychosocial support in emergencies, schools can help students and their families recover and build resilience in the aftermath of the disaster.
A digital screening platform such as GoodSpace Schools can help schools more effectively respond to the mental health needs of students affected by widespread floods in Auckland. With its evidence-based approach, ability to screen large numbers of students at a time and real-time results it proves to be an important resource to help schools support the wellbeing of their students during this challenging time.