Hurricane Sandy: Rebuilding Lives, One Year Later

Two programs help storm survivors cope with the emotional distress

After a disaster, it’s normal to feel intense emotions—fear, anxiety, anger, even guilt—and these can last long after the danger has passed.

VNSNY has two programs that provide emotional support to those who are struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Both programs teach survivors, one-on-one or in group sessions, the skills they need to change their thoughts and behaviors to overcome emotional distress, and both programs are free.

VNSNY’s Disaster Distress Response Program operates in areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Rockaways, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties and is scheduled to run through May of 2015. Clinical staff have been trained by the National Center for PTSD to provide a special type of cognitive behavior therapy to those who need more intensive help re-establishing emotional foundations. “This is the same program used after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina,” says Dr. Kerry Symon, Program Director. “After a disaster, our views of the world and of ourselves get impacted, and that can change how we think, feel and conduct our lives. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to identify the triggers that produce the negative feelings and look at the thoughts related to the disaster, so that when you notice a negative thought or feeling being triggered, you can shift your thinking. Our clients are expressing such a difference in their lives—relief they haven’t felt since the storm. If you are still distressed, we are here for you.”

VNSNY’s Project HOPE offered crisis counseling to residents of Brooklyn and Queens; it operated through February 28, 2014. “We saw people with a lot of anxiety and fearfulness, especially last fall during hurricane season,” says Deirdre DeLeo, Project Coordinator, “and we worked with people to help them find ways to manage their reactions.” The counseling was provided by those who also survived the disaster. “Everyone on my staff lived through the storm—several lost their homes, but all were affected in some way. It’s okay to ask for help if you’re still struggling, even in the tiniest ways.” 



For information about VNSNY’s Disaster Distress Response Program, call 1-718-888-6955.