Natural Disasters And Their Effects On Mental Health

The 2010 Haiti Earthquake of magnitude 7.0 struck Haiti northwest of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, and ranks as one of the most fatal earthquakes. The earthquake affected as many as 3 million people, causing around 1,60,000 total deaths. Do you ever wonder how will it impact the mental health of the people who were affected by these natural diseases? 

Natural Disasters are large-scale events that cause death, destruction of property, and trauma. Disasters affect millions of people every year. Though the physical consequences may fade after a few years, the psychological toll it causes on a person’s mind stays forever. 

Natural Disasters and mental health

WHO defines a disaster as a sudden ecologic phenomenon of sufficient magnitude to require external assistance. On average, there is at least one disaster happening every day worldwide. The frequency of these natural disasters and the magnitude increase with the increasing population density and climate change. 

Mental Health And Natural Health

Most people have experienced some trauma owing to natural disasters. Most of the effects are acute and transient. They fade away within a definite period depending upon the magnitude of the disaster. For some, the impacts of a disaster on behavioral health can be severe and long-lasting.

Natural Disasters cause social and economic losses and cause mental trauma among individuals to a large extent. People may suffer from  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, mood swings. Generally, the cost of consequences of natural disasters is measured by economic losses and deaths, but there is no comparison to the emotional trauma a person undergoes owing to the natural disaster. 

These tragedies are uncertain and can fully change a person’s life. Imagine sitting relaxed in your room watching television and suddenly you get a phone call saying that your beloved has died due to a sudden earthquake in the northern region. 

What will be your reaction?

The effect of this news caused on your mental health cannot be assessed. A home is a place people consider to be safe and secured. But when unavoidable situations like a flood, earthquake, a landslide occurs, it leads to the damage of valuable properties and houses, which causes a feeling of insecurity and grief among the victims. The death of a dear and beloved one causes the same feeling of emotional detachment, heartbreak, and insecurity among the victims.

Apart from the victims, think about the people who faced the disasters and survived. There are a lot of complications faced by natural disaster survivors. They might have lost everything they once had, and living a life without all those necessary things and close people must have been difficult for them. Some emotional reactions and mental health effects owing to natural disasters may include:-

  • Distress                                           
  • Shock
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Flashback
  • Difficulty in sleeping or eating
  • Changes in thoughts and behavioral patterns

5 Mental Phases During A Natural Disasters

1. Pre Disaster Phase

The pre-disaster phase can be very short as a lightning bolt if there is no early warning of the disaster. If there is an early warning people may feel fear, vulnerability, and uncertainty. It can lead to anxiety to protect themselves and their families.

2. Heroic Phase

Moments after the disaster, survivors and other people show heroic behaviors such as rescuing, saving, feeding, and supporting other victims of the disaster. Hence, this phase is known as the heroic phase. This phase usually lasts from 1 to 3 days, depending upon the magnitude of damages caused and the availability of relief sources from various NGOs and agencies. 

3. Honeymoon Phase

During this phase, the survivors and affected people are relocated to safer places such as medical camps, hospitals, etc. Free medical aid, monetary benefits, rehabilitation, compensation allowances, etc., help people gain faith and trust that their losses would be restored through these benefits. It is called the honeymoon phase and it lasts for about 1 month. 

4. Disillusionment Phase

After a month of disaster, the relief materials and help were discontinued. VIPs visit, media coverage, and agency support also start fading away. This phase brings the reality of a harsh and ruthless world to the survivors post-disaster. The dream of rehabilitation and reconstruction seems to be an unattainable dream because of its complexity, legalities, etc.  

5. Reconstruction Phase

This phase begins after a year and can last for years depending upon the severity of the damages caused by the disaster. This phase is linked with recovery as stakeholders stand to take responsibility for rebuilding and re-modifying the area to make them a better place to live in. 

Strategies To Help In Mental Health Recovery Post-Disaster

The American Psychological Association cited some of the strategies to overcome a mental health issue caused due to natural disasters. Using these strategies you can overcome a mental health crisis if caused:-

  • Doing yoga or any other physical activity will help you not physically but internally. 
  • Ask your friends or family member for love and guidance
  • Start reading books or writing to take out your feelings
  • Join a support group or an NGO
  • Indulge in good routine habits such as proper sleep, healthy eating, avoiding junk foods, etc. 
  • Avoid taking up major life decisions.
  • Take time to adjust yourself to the new environment. Everything doesn’t happen quickly. 

Mental Health And Natural Disasters Of A Child

Children and teenagers are more prone and vulnerable to the mental health effects caused due to natural disasters. If a child sees his house destroyed and his family members getting killed due to natural disasters, what do you expect his/her reaction to being? Children are less experienced, lack knowledge, and have fewer control levels to face this situation. Generally, children are more vulnerable to PTSD after a disaster. They may suffer from anxiety, depression, and behavioral changes. Disasters threaten children’s perception of the world to be safe and secure; thus, recovery for victim children requires that parents, caregivers, or children’s community try to re-establish a sense of belongingness with them as soon as possible. 

How Can Parents Or Caregivers Support The Mental Health Of Children After Natural Disasters

  • Encourage the child to be open and throw out their feelings to you
  • Keep them away from seeing any news/article related to natural disasters, death, brutal killing, etc.
  • Engage the children in different fun activities such as dancing, playing, singing, skating, listening to music, etc to divert their mind
  • Support them and give them unconditional love
  • Tell the child that they should move on in their lives and make them understand the situation.
  • Doing meditation will also help them attain peace and a clear mind. 

Prevention, Treatment And Retrieval

There is various pre, during, and post-intervention techniques and methods that can improve mental health outcomes. Following these steps to prevent mental health effects during a disaster is as important as taking therapy sessions for mental health development. 


If you are already warned of a natural disaster coming your way, it is better to be prepared for it. You should always avoid taking unnecessary stress. It is always possible that your house, property, financial resources, and even your near and dear ones will suffer during a disaster but one should always think positively. LIFE HACK: If you or your family are staying in a warning zone, immediately reach out for public help and isolate the area. Stay in a safe zone, and most of your stress will disappear. Availability of shelters stocked with appropriate food and clothing supplies and staffed with medical assistance is essential during this situation.  Journaling or reading books can help you stay calm to a large extent. 

During Disaster

If you are watching the disaster happening or are an immediate survivor of the disaster, protect yourself first. The mind doesn’t work in this situation most of the time, and people may even lose their lives for the sake of others. Reach out to the people who are stuck and support them. Stay calm and call 911 for help. 

Post Disaster

If you are a victim, it is essential first to avail of medical facilities. Go to a safe zone and take adequate food and proper medications. A victim of a disaster or even a person who has lost someone during the natural disaster can suffer mental consequences. You may feel anxious, depressed, or guilty. It is important to stay calm as much as possible. Let go of all the sadness and emptiness within you. Have a night of proper sleep and analyze the situation after you become mentally stable. 


Emotional instability, depression, and trauma usually happen when a person becomes a victim or a survivor of a natural disaster. The relationship between mental health and natural disasters is the worst. It causes a massive impact on a person’s mental well-being. Their mind becomes fully paralyzed from the natural disaster and disrupting the individual’s daily functioning. Lack of awareness related to pre and post-treatment methods during a natural disaster is the main cause of permanent impacts. Supportive methods including medical therapy self-care practices should be encouraged to minimize the consequences. 

Convey us about how this blog post helped you overcome your mental health problem and share your experiences if any, through the comment box.

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