Houston Harvey victims tending to their mental health needs during suicide prevention month

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By: Jerome Bailey Jr.

HOUSTON — When Annie Woodard’s Sunnyside home flooded out, she went to Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in southeast Houston for shelter and supplies. But what she found, was someone to talk to.

“I’ve made lots of friends since this storm and we’ve been able to talk about different things,” said Woodard.

“It makes you feel real good when you’re able to talk to people.”

People at the South Park Church says providing a safe space for survivors to speak was just as important as the goods and supplies.

“Imagine dealing with something when you’re going through tragedy, strife or something like that. It can be double the intrusion on your life,” said community director of Greater St. Matthew, Gusta Booker Jr.

September is suicide prevention month, and while many are recovering from the physical effects of Harvey, experts at the Harris Center urge survivors to not forget about your mental health.

“A shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to can relieve a lot of the stress that we’re carrying and a lot of times we don’t even know that we’re carrying that amount of stress,” said Leandre Ledoux, community liason of the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD.

The center says kids must also be protected to prevent long term mental health issues.

“We saw a number of children be passed across the water in refrigerators and the boats,” said Eunice Davis, disaster coordinator of the Harris Center.

“Help them talk through their feelings, their experiences and let them know that what they’re feeling is absolutely normal and their reactions are normal as well.”

The Harris Center has a 24-hour hotline if you are experiencing a mental health or IDD-related crisis or if you are a current client and have an after-hours medication concern, call their 24-hour Crisis Line at 713-970-7000, option 1, or 1-866-970-4770.

The center is also developing an additional line to support those specifically impacted by this flood.

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