In a county full of people dealing with the destruction caused by Category 4 Hurricane Irma, a spike in depression and stress among Florida Keys residents comes as no surprise to health-care professionals.
In the four weeks following the storm that made landfall Sept. 10, thousands of Monroe County residents have dealt with lost possessions, homes that were damaged or destroyed, and rearranged living conditions, among other hurdles.
“Is it a stressful time? You’d have to be a rock to not have had it affect you some way,” said Monroe County Health Department Director Bob Eadie. “I think you have stress throughout the community — not just to those who were physically impacted.”
Key West psychiatrist Dr. Teri Beers Rossi said depression is one of the five stages of grief after a catastrophic loss.
“People go through denial, and then the second phase is anger,” she said.
The third phase is bargaining: The what-ifs, the should-have, could-have, would-haves, Rossi said.
“There’s a lot of guilt felt during that stage of grief, then it’s followed by depression and it’s normal to feel depressed,” she said, adding that kind of depression is not the same as someone who has clinical depression.
The final stage is acceptance, Rossi said, adding the stages of grief do not always fall in any particular order. They can come and go and wax and wane, she said.
Her advice? Keep a support network of friends and family “very close at hand” and seek help if you or someone you know is feeling more than a little depressed. Helping others can also be “extremely beneficial” she said.
Community volunteer Mary Lou Hoover, who is active with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said it’s not just residents who are experiencing mental fatigue, but also people on the front lines who are helping them recover.
Where to get help
Last weekend, the foundation and AIDS Help put together two events to help the community. There was one on Big Pine Key and one in Key West where people could come together and talk about what they’re going through.
Now, the suicide prevention foundation has agreed to sponsor two more, one in Marathon and one in the Upper Keys, with help from other organizations including AIDS Help. There are grief counselors on hand, along with support groups and other resources.
“We’re seeing a lot of different scenarios of mental fatigue, anguish, survival fatigue and loss. We all need to grieve,” said AIDS Help Executive Director Scott Prigeon. Dates and times for the Middle and Upper Keys events will be announced, but another is set for Saturday in Key West at Poinciana Royale’s multipurpose room from noon to 3 p.m. The address is 1341 McCarthy Lane just off Duck Avenue.
Weekly support groups are also happening at Guidance/Care Center Inc. sites countywide. They will be at:
▪ 4 p.m. Wednesdays at 99198 Overseas Highway, Key Largo.
▪ 6 p.m. Tuesdays at 3000 Ocean Terrace, next to the American Legion, in Marathon.
▪ 5 p.m. Mondays at 1205 Fourth St., Key West.
A Big Pine Key support group site is in the works. Call (305)-434-7660 for updates.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219