Untreated anxiety, stress widespread after Nov. 30 quake, survey finds
Nearly four-fifths of people who responded to a state survey regarding Southcentral Alaska's Nov. 30 earthquake said they experienced mental health effects in the 7.0 temblor’s aftermath.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released results Wednesday from an online survey, answered by about 3,000 people who chose to fill out all or part of it between mid-December and mid-January. Some 93 percent of responders were in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Borough when the quake struck.
“Among the 2,949 respondents who answered questions about injuries, 223 (8 percent) reported that they were injured during the earthquake, and 252 (8 percent) reported that they were injured after the earthquake (e.g., when cleaning up),” state officials wrote. “The most commonly reported earthquake-associated injuries were superficial cuts/lacerations, large scrapes/bruises, and strains/sprains.”
Among the 2,950 people who responded to questions regarding mental health, 78 percent said they had suffered “an increase in feelings of anxiety, fear, distraction, or worry; having trouble sleeping; or experiencing panic attacks following the earthquake.” Among respondents with children, 59 percent said their children had “experienced increased anxiety or other distress.”
Asked what the single biggest impact of the quake was, 47 percent of the 2,894 people who answered cited “anxiety or other distress.”
Just 23 percent of people who discussed seeking help for mental-health issues in the survey said they had sought help, with another 8 percent saying they wanted to but hadn’t for various reasons. The vast majority, 68 percent, said they hadn’t sought help.
Respondents said their top two sources of earthquake information were Facebook as well as AM/FM radio, although 45 percent of people said their preferred method of communication was “text messages from a state/federal agency.”
“The top three categories of information that respondents said they wanted within a day of the earthquake but did not receive were instructions on how to assess building safety (1,621/2,624; 62 percent), updates on road closures (1,058; 40 percent), and updates on building closures (906; 35 percent),” state officials wrote.
Some 30 percent of people reported a need for information on personal safety during future earthquakes and aftershocks, with many respondents expressing “confusion about tsunami notifications” which had initially included inaccurate warnings for the Anchorage area.
Some 46 percent of people who discussed earthquake kits reported having one before Nov. 30, but 27 percent “did not think that a kit was necessary.” Most kits contained a flashlight and first-aid supplies along with three days of food and water, but 74 percent of those described by respondents didn’t contain important documents.
In addition to implications for state authorities in improving messaging and promoting the creation of emergency kits, DHSS staff said the results also carried a message for the general public.
“Because most of the physical injuries reported by respondents included cuts and lacerations, it is important to remind people to use appropriate personal protective equipment such as foot protection and heavy gloves during clean-up and to be mindful that items may have shifted and can fall when cabinets and closets are opened after the earthquake has ended,” state officials wrote.
State disaster assistance applications had a Feb. 28 deadline, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency is taking applications for federal disaster aid through April 1 at several disaster recovery centers across Southcentral Alaska. Applications can also be made online at www.disasterassistance.gov, as well as through FEMA's registration phone line at 800-621-3362.
According to DHSS, state resources include:
Tips for coping with earthquakes are available at: http://www.dhss.alaska.gov/Pages/emergency_coping.aspx
Need to talk? The Alaska Careline is Alaska's crisis, support, and suicide prevention hotline. The Alaska Careline is free and available 24/7 at 877-266-4357.
Information about personal safety and creating an emergency supply kit are available at:
Persons who require assistance with other disaster-related services are encouraged to contact Alaska 2-1-1 at 800- 478-2221 or online at: http://www.alaska211.org/
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