How will climate change first impact many people? Through stress, our response to increasingly uncertain weather conditions and the increasing pace of climate disasters, says Dr. Reggie Ferreira, associate director of the Traumatology Institute at Tulane University’s School of Social Work.
Having worked as part of New Orleans’ recovery after Hurricane Katrina — and in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria — Dr. Ferreira has advice for us as we face climate change: Prepare by planning for disaster and building a strong social network that can work together in the wake of a hurricane, wildfire, or other weather-related disasters. Dr. Ferreira is also the editor of the American Psychological Association’s journal of disaster and trauma, Traumatology, and head of the Society for Social Work Research’s Disaster Research Group.
In his conversation with Earth911’s Mitch Ratcliffe, Dr. Ferreira shares his experience in disaster zones and advice for the mental health community. Robust social connections are critical to community responses to disasters. Psychologists and other social workers need to rethink the way they organize responses, starting before a storm or fire to build the relationships that can overcome traditional social services models.
He also explains how the impact of disasters on the poorest and most disadvantaged people, including the mentally ill, is greater than other segments of society. By preparing these communities, a city can be more resilient in the face of a hurricane’s destruction as well as better for residents on a daily basis.
Disasters test communication and trust. Establishing a strong social bond before they strike is the keystone for successful responses to climate change-caused misery.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 7, 2019.