NAMI supports parents of children still coping after May tornado
ELDON - The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, hosted the first of two community meetings on Wednesday to help parents whose children are still coping through trauma they may have suffered after the May tornado.
Gena Terlizzi, the executive director of NAMI Missouri, said recovery after a disaster includes more than physical health.
"Mental health is also a critical component to well-being and to any long-term recovery plan," Terlizzi said. "We want families who are still struggling to know they have not been forgotten."
The meeting's keynote speaker, Laird "Chap" Thompson, gave a presentation detailing how children are affected by natural disasters. It included ways they might cope with the loss they experienced. He also explained ways parents can help their children cope with their losses.
Tips for parents
The group wants parents to know it's okay for their children to ask questions. They should answer them briefly and honestly, and then ask questions of their own. Children may be dealing with a lot of loss during the difficult time. They may lose their feeling of safety, or their trust in others. Children may also experience physical responses to their feelings of trauma, such as headaches or increased sensitivity to sounds.
Parents are encouraged to reassure their children that they are safe. They should listen to their fears and make sure they don't discount or minimize them.
Children's reactions can vary, but include a loss of interest in activities or disruptive behavior.
One parent in attendance, Sarah Sargent, is a mother of five. She said paying attention to mental health after a natural disaster is very important.
"I think something like this meeting will hopefully make people aware that there are people out there that can help," Sargent said. "There's a lot of resources for people."
Sargent lives in Versailles, and she said the tornadoes went right by her family's home.
"We were lucky that there wasn't any damage to our home," Sargent said. "But we did spend the night in the basement and the children were very scared."
This is the first of two community meetings that NAMI is holding. The second scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Jefferson City at the Linc.