Helping Hurricane Victims Cope

Its been four months since Hurricane Ike, but getting over the trauma isn't as easy for some as it is for others. That's why FEMA and the Harris County Mental Health Department are offering free counseling for those struggling to deal with it all. Bill Stamps has more.
For those who felt its wrath, Hurricane Ike was as traumatizing as anything to ever hit Houston.

"I have nothing. Nothing!"

"I don't think I have ever seen this before quite this dramatic."

"All my stuff is gone."

Some people are able to shrug it off and get on with life, but for those who can't…there is free counseling available. You can call it hurricane therapy. Joe Paul is one of the counselors…and so far he's heard it all.

"Everyone pretty much has their own individual story.  I had a guy recently who has a master's degree in education and he was teaching at a school in Galveston, a private school. And the school is pretty much gone, so he's out of a job."

Anyone can get the free counseling just by calling the County's helpline.

Not only is there no charge for the counseling, but they'll also go to your home, if that's what you want. Victor Hall is one of the organizers. He says you can say what you want about FEMA, or government, but they recognize there are people out there in need. And they're going to do what they can to help.

"You may have individuals who may not have normally have experience any type of mental health issues, but the hurricane has brought about some stress and strain on a person that normally would be able to handle the situation."

Joe Paul says his counseling can get pretty emotional as he listens to people tell their stories: some are now traumatized …even to the point of being afraid of bad weather.

"I've had people who say they've had nightmares about the storm, or even when it rains or if it's windy or forecast says it's gonna be windy — they get a little edgy."

For some losing a home or business can be as devastating as losing a loved one. And for those…as they say…help is just a phone call away.

Bill Stamps. KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

The hotline number for free counseling is 713-970-8276, or visit the Web page.