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DDN: Experts: Mental health critical to disaster recovery

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Excerpt from the Dayton Daily News

As families and businesses repair the physical scars left by 15 tornadoes across the Miami Valley on Memorial Day, experts say it’s important to also pay attention to the psychological toll natural disasters take on individuals and the community.

“Everyone is going through post-traumatic stress,” said Springboro Police Chief Jeff Kruithoff, who has worked as a volunteer chaplain for first responders in the aftermath of disasters, including the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. What’s important is to not let that stress turn into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he said, which can interfere with everyday function.

Early intervention is the key to stopping that, said Kruithoff, who also serves on the Dayton Daily News Community Advisory Board.

It’s common for many people to feel on edge, have anxiety or experience nightmares after a tornado — even those residents whose homes or businesses weren’t damaged, according to Wright State clinical psychologist and associate professor Jeremy Schumm.

“People start to have unhelpful ways of thinking,” he said, which can include guilt if they suffered less than their neighbors.

But the way the community has come together so far is a good sign for overall morale, he said.

“That’s a very good thing. That’s what we want to see,” he said, and that likely should reduce the number of people experiencing long-lasting post-traumatic symptoms.