Saturday, September 3, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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How to cope with tragedy, devastation of Katrina

Seattle Times staff reporter

Where to get help

Crisis Clinic: A free resource for anyone in emotional distress or crisis, day or night. One of 200 trained volunteers can listen and help direct callers to further assistance if needed. 24-hour Crisis Line: 206-461-3222. Online:

Children's Hospital Resource Line: 206-987-2500 or 866-987-2500

Warning signs

If these symptoms persist, it might indicate a need for professional help

Feelings of fear, helplessness, horror or detachment

A lack of emotion

Insomnia, appetite loss, or restlessness

Not being able to function in usual activities

Recurrent images and flashbacks of the disaster

Source: Dr. Sharon Farmer, medical director for King County Regional Support Network

The grim news about Hurricane Katrina's destruction along the Gulf Coast can be emotionally upsetting. Unlike the devastation from last December's tsunami overseas, our own are suffering now.

It's normal to feel helpless, overwhelmed and distressed after such a disaster, local mental-health providers say. And it is important to care for your own needs, both emotional and physical.

Here are some coping tips suggested by Dr. Sharon Farmer, medical director for King County Regional Support Network; Kathleen Southwick, executive director of local nonprofit Crisis Clinic; and Elizabeth McCauley, psychologist and director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle:

• Avoid the news. Graphic images, especially of the young or the dead, can be troubling to adults and children. Instead, try listening to music or read a favorite book.

• Talk about your feelings. People who have been traumatized often have an intense feeling to relate to others. Do not isolate yourself.

• Stay active. Make sure you continue to exercise, go for a walk or play a sport you enjoy.

• Avoid alcohol and drugs. Mood-altering substances can be dangerous when emotionally unstable.

• Eat and drink properly . Eating well-balanced meals and staying hydrated can help keep you physically healthy.

• Sleep . Insomnia is one of the signs that you may be emotionally distressed. A good night's sleep can leave you rested and relaxed.

• Find a way to contribute. Give to an established disaster-relief organization, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. If you want to do something tangible, donate blood to a local blood bank to bolster supplies.

• Let yourself cry . It's OK to feel bad.

Lara Bain: 206-464-2112 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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