October 26, 2017
It’s been two months since Hurricane Harvey made landfall. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the hurricane and its victims were constantly on our minds. But, those of us who were not directly affected are back to our regular routines at work and home. The school, clinics, and hospitals are as busy as ever. The outward signs of the storm’s destruction are waning as the piles of debris along the streets have slowly been shrinking, and roads and businesses have reopened.
But in spite of outward appearances, I was reminded earlier this week by one of our colleagues that the trauma of Harvey is far from over. This was, and continues to be, an incredibly stressful event for our community, which continues to face uncertainty. About 10 percent of our university community was directly affected by Harvey – with flooded homes, vehicles, and harm to loved ones. It’s easy to lose sight of what so many of our colleagues are going through when the hurricane’s aftermath is not in the news every day.
This experience can take a major toll on those around us and their families.
I asked Dr. Jair Soares, chair of our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, for his expert advice to those in this situation. He told me: “If one notices a friend or relative in this situation being more withdrawn, or more irritable, not sleeping well, looking more tired, lower performance in their normal activities, those are signs that the person may need some professional help to deal with a possible clinical depression, post-traumatic stress, or another, very understandable, anxiety disorder.”
Our faculty in the Department of Psychiatry are available for appointments through UT Physicians. The Employee Assistance Program offers a number of free counseling sessions per year for all UTHealth employees, as well as other resources to help us balance our work and life.
You may not know that Dr. Soares and his wife, Dr. Giovana Zunta-Soares, were rescued by boat when their home flooded during Harvey and are now themselves dealing with the stressful task of rebuilding their first floor. “It is a major stress on one’s life and family, and I know that many of us at UTHealth are in the same boat,” he said.
Please take a moment to think about and talk to your colleagues—as I’m embarrassed to say I needed to be reminded earlier this week. Ask how they are doing; share a kind and encouraging word. I realize from my own busy days how easy it is to just do our work and forget that each of us has a personal life – with ups and downs – and each of us needs support and encouragement.
Please accept my gratitude for everything you do every day.
P.S. Tomorrow our Houston Astros will play their first home game in the 2017 World Series against the LA Dodgers. Let’s show our Houston pride by wearing Astros gear on Friday!