The last place I expected to find people offering mental health services was our Home and Garden Show this past weekend in Binghamton, New York. But this is no normal year.here in upstate NY. We are just recently six months past the day the rivers, filled with torrential rain from Troopical Storm Lee, flooded.our area.
Normally, at a Home and Garden show you find lots of contractors ready to remodel your home or build you a new one. You'll find roofers, kitchen contractors, plumbers, window contractors, landscapers, and more.
What you usually don't expect to find is FEMA. Or, mental health professionals and volunteers ready to talk to showgoers.
We talked to one contractor while a loop of work in progress on a finished basement played on a TV set. We paid closer attention to the loop when the contractor told us that the film was of....his basement. He lives in one of the worst affected neighborhoods, Twin Orchards in Vestal. The film was of an addition, finished three days before the flood. It had to be gutted and rebuilt.
Another contractor was one we had used a couple of years ago to replace a large living room window. He remembered us. His business is in our neighborhood, Westover. The flood almost took his business.
I've talked about the flood a lot in the past six months but one thing I haven't touched on that much is the stress, anxiety and lots of other emotions that take their toll on people (in general) whether or not they were physically affected by the flood. Just being here, just living here, was enough. I haven't spoken of it that much because it is too personal (except if you are a neighbor or co worker, or someone else from this area. Because then, you know.) The first sense I got of the enormity of the problem was when I was searching through the FEMA site at the time I made my claim. There was a link for mental health resources. One link.
The one link was for - a suicide hotline.
A special program called Project Recovery has been reaching out to our neighborhood, Twin Orchards and others. They have left leaflets on our door. They talk to people both flooded out and those who weren't They run support groups (there's one near me). In fact, one of the volunteers told me she had volunteered because she had not suffered herself. She felt the need to reach out.
There were four volunteers at the Home and Garden show when we visited. They were asking passerby's "how are you feeling". Some people walked by. But others stopped.
They showed us a chart, looking like a hospital chart in those cartoons where someone is sick in bed. Up and down, up and down. Right now, the volunteer told me, we are at the six month anniversary. Things are down emotionally for a lot of people. She told me recovery is not a steady process. There will be other dips. There will be another big dip at the one year anniversary in September.
But after the one year anniversary, she told me, the line will go back up.
And that time it will stay up.
It is good to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.