Voices of Recovery: Mental Health in Rural Communities Post-Disaster (Oklahoma)

Center for Disaster Philanthropy
Recovery Funds provide local grants to help communities heal after a disaster.
This means we’re often working side-by-side with community members to
understand needs and respond effectively. The road to recovery is long yet as
you’ll hear the spirit of resilience and hope endures. I was the one that actually
called fire department and said there’s a fire it’s on Road 19 it’s at
so-and-so’s house because you know we all know each other so the fire trucks went
out and we sat in here and we watched it jump the highway and I looked that way
and the fire was just coming right at us. We had people drive through fire to get
to people and get them out you’ll never find out who those were because they
won’t talk about it. They don’t see themselves as heroes so much as, “that’s my neighbor.” There were no fences left they’re all
burned down and you’re talking about between five and 10 thousand dollars for my
own fence. So it’s not insignificant the amount of cost there was and then
you look out in the field and there are hundreds of cattle that been burned
and that owners had to go out and put down because they were suffering. And
that’s complete loss. So the pressure mentally, the pressure spiritually gets
to be pretty intense. There been since that time at least six suicides that I’m
aware of and you won’t find anybody admitting it but they’re directly
related. When they lost those cattle not only did they just lose a bull or lose a
cow, they lost a bull that their great-great-great-great grandfather
worked to get that bloodline into their herd. A lot of people don’t realize how
important farmers and ranchers are because that is essentially where their
food comes from. It doesn’t come from the grocery store. So when a farmer and a
rancher has a bad year, they have sick cattle, they have tornados, they have ice
storms, they have fires, they have whatever disaster comes through, in turn
not only has the farmer lost their livelihood, lost their paycheck for the
year, but then there’s a shortage of food. Which means all of us small town or big
city see it at the grocery store. See the prices increase. The sense of
hopelessness is overpowering and I think disasters in rural areas are different
than disasters in city life. In rural communities, yes you do have
organizations that come in and help but the recovery I think in rural
communities takes so much longer and when those people leave there
needs to be that foundation, that fabric that’s going to continue to walk with
them. It’s long-term recovery that we are involved in right now. As a part of
Project Resilient Spirit we have developed psychological first aid
trainings that are involved in the fabric of the community recovery. We’re saying who are the people who interact and provide the emotional social support
in these communities and how can we help them do that job even better for the
people who’ve been impacted now and for the people who will be impacted later?
How much easier would it have been if they were actually enough attention from
the world to help? And how many of those six people who committed suicide would
still be alive? That’s what I keep thinking about. I have fallen in love
with the rural community. They have a right to all the help, all the assistance
they need to rebuild, to restore, to have hope again. While a sense of hope comes from the
heart, it takes funders large and small to change hope to reality. A community’s
healing happens only because of people like you. Join us.

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