You’ve Survived One Disaster, Don’t Let it Lead to Another

Help for the lingering trauma of surviving a natural disaster

By Tegan Camden, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services for Children’s Home Association of Illinois and a professor of psychology at Illinois Central College

When a natural disaster occurs, the affected community enters a crisis, response, and recovery phase that can last for several years. Homes are rebuilt, roads are repaved, businesses open their doors again, and citizens attempt to return to the state of normalcy they knew before the disaster. This period is typically referred to as the “Reconstruction Phase.” Individuals and the community as a whole begin to assume responsibility for rebuilding their lives. People try to find their “new normal,” while continuing to grieve their losses (Illinois.Gov, 2012).

Part of the process of grieving after a trauma involves letting go of how things “used to be.” After the second anniversary of the event has passed, many individuals are left with a sinking feeling, the thought that they “should be better by now;” however, symptoms associated with the trauma of experiencing a natural disaster still linger.

In the years following a disaster, symptoms of anxiety can still be present years following an event. When individuals do not recognize anxiety symptoms as being associated with a traumatic event, they can often turn to unhealthy coping skills or behavioral patterns to manage their feelings.

Research shows that even several years after a traumatic event, rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, and depression and suicidal ideation are increased. Several studies have found that individuals who have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are at a 14-59 percent risk of abusing substances. For teenagers and adolescents, the risk increases to 25-76 percent. Recent research also suggests that traumatic stress or PTSD symptoms may make it difficult for teens and adults to stop using, as exposure to reminders of the trauma have been shown to increase cravings for substances (Clark, Lesnick, and Hegedus, 2007).

In addition to being at a higher risk for substance use, survivors of a natural disaster are also at risk for increasing rates of domestic violence. One year after Hurricane Hugo, martial stress was more prevalent in couples who had been severely exposed to the hurricane versus individuals who had minimal exposure. Within six months of Hurricane Andrew, 22 percent of adult residents acknowledged a new conflict with someone in their household. One recent study showed a 46 percent increase in police reports of domestic violence after a disaster. In addition, studies have shown that substantial percentages of disaster victims experience marital stress, new conflicts, and troubled interpersonal relationships (Norris, 2013).

Another concerning symptom that arises in the years following a natural disaster is depressive thinking. Among victims of floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes, there is an increased prevalence of PTSD and depression, which are risk factors for suicidal thinking. According to national data, suicide rates in the four years after floods increase by 13 percent. In the two years after hurricanes, rates increase by 31 percent. In the first year after earthquakes, the rates increase by 62 percent. These increases were found to be similar for both men and women of all age groups (New England Journal of Medicine, 2008). Individuals also experience increasing rates of feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, increased anxiety, and increased overall feelings of sadness or thoughts about death.

It is important for citizens of a town that has experienced a disaster to be aware of how anxiety can manifest in the years following the event. While an individual may not experience these symptoms directly, they can help their friend, family member, or loved one, by encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling. If the person is need does not feel comfortable discussing the issue, they can be referred to an online support group, counselor, to a clergy member, or to any person they trust. Know the signs, know the symptoms, and know the numbers to call. While life may not look the same now as it did before, if a person can “yield to hope,” they may find they can be infinitely stronger than they had previously imagined.

Additional Resources:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Substance Abuse Mental Health and Services Administration

National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Center for Prevention of Abuse

Tegan Camden is the Vice President of Behavioral Health Services for Children’s Home Association of Illinois and a professor of psychology at Illinois Central College. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. Tegan serves on the Spiritual and Emotional Care Subcommittee of the Long Term Recovery Committee and was one of the authors of “Rebuilding Hope After a Natural Disaster: Pathways to Emotional Healing and Recovery.”

Connecting Central Illinois with the Social Services They Need

Connecting those in need to critical social services is only a call away. The Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 team understands that finding the assistance you need to lead a healthy, stable life can be challenging and oftentimes, overwhelming. With extensive resources at our fingertips, 2-1-1 can connect you to crucial social services across Peoria, Woodford, Tazewell, Marshall, Stark and Putnam counties. Home-delivered meal services, mental health care, and rent and utility assistance are among the services we provide. Whether it’s nonprofit, government assistance or church-based groups, there are resources waiting to help.

Have you ever felt lost in your search for basic necessities? Many resources lead to dead ends, or the information is simply too difficult to find. That’s where Heart of Illinois United Way 2-1-1 comes in … when you call or visit us online, we can work directly with you to come up with the social services you need and how you can access them. Please browse our website and use the Find Help page to search for the vast areas of assistance available. You can also dial 211 and our team will lend you a helping hand.

Find Child Care and After-School Services

The Heart of Illinois 2-1-1’s free, confidential hotline offers people a convenient way to access a wide variety of services. From basic necessities such as food and shelter to parenting programs such as child care and after-school services, Tazewell County locals can dial 2-1-1 to receive the help they need.

Are you a new parent searching for daycare or after-school services in Tazewell, Peoria, Woodford, Marshall, Stark and Putnam counties? If so, give the Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 a call in order to discuss child care and after-school programs. Parents can contact our childcare referral specialists at any time of day to learn about licensed childcare options and programs in their area. We make matching your family to an accredited daycare facility a priority because we understand that choosing the best childcare provider is essential for your child’s safety and development. In addition to connecting parents to local services, we also support child care providers by maintaining a free childcare database.

Or if you’d rather search for a child care provider online, use the search box above to find all the child care and after-school services central Illinois has to offer. Those looking for a more specific service can use our Advanced Search to narrow down search results and discover more targeted information.

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Home Repair Help for Elderly and Disabled Homeowners

Did you know that the last Saturday in April is National Rebuilding Day? As a part of this national celebration, Rebuilding Together Peoria helps to rehabilitate the homes of low-income elderly or disabled homeowners so that they may live in warmth, safety, and with independence. The volunteers at Rebuilding Together Peoria provide assistance including yard and house clean up, painting, carpentry, plumbing repairs and electrical repairs.

Who is eligible to apply for Rebuilding Together Peoria Assistance? You are eligible if you are a homeowner in Peoria, East Peoria, Richwoods Township, or Unincorporated Peoria County; have a household income below $38,200 for one person or $43,650 for two people; have at least one elderly or disabled occupant; have paid current property taxes; and have active and casualty homeowners insurance.

As the economic pressure on low-income households grows, especially for those with elderly or disabled residents, more and more of these households are placed in the position of choosing between vital necessities and essential home repairs. If you find yourself in this position and qualify for help, simply apply at or call 309-674-2462.

What to Do When the Utility Bill Is Due

Have you ever found yourself unable to make ends meet and in danger of not being able to pay your utilities bill? If you are in this situation, the Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 is an invaluable resource to aid you in receiving the assistance you need. The 2-1-1 program is a free, completely confidential number that you can call at any time. You will be connected with trained staff who can refer you to the organizations and people that can help you out. The 2-1-1 team is here to talk you through different options, and connect you to the help you need.

There are several organizations in the Peoria area that aid in utilities assistance. The Peoria Friendship House offers emergency service programs which help individuals with rent and utility payments to help deter homelessness. The Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity also offers utilities assistance programs, more specifically for the elderly, disabled, and large, low income families. The Salvation Army also offers various utility assistance programs to local residents.

If you ever find yourself in danger of losing electricity, or any other emergency situation whether it financial, health, or family related, call 211 for immediate information and referral. If you are unable to connect to 211, you can also call 309-999-4029 or search for your specific need at

A Good Mentor Has Wisdom to Share

Across the country, January is National Mentoring Month, when special attention is paid to the effects of one-on-one mentoring on the youth in our community. It is so important for children who grow up in poverty to escape the cycle that poverty creates, and one highly effective way to break the cycle is for a child to have a relationship with a positive, older role model. Studies show that when paired with a mentor, young people are more likely to stay in and succeed in school, are less likely to engage in risky behavior, and are more likely to show improved self esteem. With chronic truancy rates among District 150 students at nearly 25 percent, and only 26 percent of Peoria area residents holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher, it is vitally important that these young people have mentors to look up to. The more successful our youth are, the more success we as a community will be.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national organization dedicated to helping all children achieve success in life. Nationally, the organization is one of the largest donor and volunteer supported agencies promoting mentoring within the community. By developing positive relationships between their ‘bigs’ and ‘littles,’ Big Brothers Big Sisters is creating a direct and lasting effect on young people, which is shown to increase students’ confidence and grades, help students get along better with their families, decrease the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, and decrease the number of times students skip school. You can visit for more information on becoming a part of this program, and on the effects of mentoring on individuals and on a community.

If you ever find yourself in need of assistance and aren’t sure where to turn, the Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 program is here for you. Simply dial 211 to be connected to a trained staff member who will confidentially help you find the assistance you need, free of charge. If you are unable to connect at 211, you can also call 309-999-4029 or search for your specific need on the web at

The Importance of Parental Involvement

Positive and effective parenting is key to a child’s success. Whether academically, socially, emotionally, or otherwise, studies show that when a parent is actively and positively involved in a child’s life, that child can overcome many environmental risk factors that might hinder future success. Parenting is not always easy, however, and oftentimes parents need help and guidance. If you find yourself in this position and are in need of help, 2-1-1 can connect you to many resources that can assist you. Our trained team is here to talk with you about different options and situations, and to refer you to organizations that can offer you ready assistance.

One local resource that is helpful to parents and families is the Crittenton Center. The Crittenton Center’s Milestone Program works with a strengths-based model that builds on individual family strengths while recognizing that good parenting is vital to a child’s future. This program focuses on identifying parents’ strengths and using them to develop collaborative relationships to support parents in their important job of raising children. The Crittenton Center also offers a Parent Education Program, which aims to enhance parental resilience, build knowledge of parenting and child development, and foster social connections, which are all proven strategies in preventing and reducing child abuse and neglect.

Additionally, the Children’s Home Association of Illinois offers various parental classes and assistance. For example, the Children’s Home Association offers “Art of Parenting” classes, free classes that teach parents effective parenting methods, including non-violent discipline techniques, improved communication with children, and how to diffuse power struggles with children. They also offer “Good Beginnings” classes to educate and support first-time, at-risk pregnant and parenting young women, so they are able to give their child the best start possible.

If you and your family are ever in need of assistance of any type and are unsure where to go, the Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 is a valuable resource. Simply call 211, a free and confidential call, to be connected to a trained staff member who is able to connect you to many different local resources. If you have trouble connecting to this number, you can call 309-999-4029 or search for your specific need at

Every Brush Leads to Better Health

Are you afraid that the cost of a dental visit is simply too high for you to afford? Oral health is vital to a child’s overall health and wellbeing, and there are sources available to help you afford this expense. You can call 211, or visit the website at to get connected with an organization that can help you.

One such organization is Illinois Central College Dental Hygiene Clinic. Dental hygiene care is provided for clients five years of age and older for a flat fee of $20, regardless of the actual care needed, and includes follow-up appointments. There is no charge for patients with a current Medicaid card. The clinic does not bill Medicare or private insurance. Additionally, the OSF Heartland Clinic offers dental services to anybody living in the tri-county area, regardless of the ability to pay. This clinic offers full dental services, including routine cleanings, cavity fillings, and extractions, even to the uninsured.

It is important that your child receives regular dental care, especially while his or her mouth is still changing and growing. The ADA recommends a dental check up twice every year in order to prevent cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. It is also important to instill healthy brushing and flossing habits in your child at a young age. Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits helps children to get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

If you ever find yourself in need of services or assistance but are unsure who to turn to, the Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 service is a valuable resource. Simply call 211 free of charge, and you will be connected to a trained operator who will refer you to those who are able to further assist you. If you are having trouble connecting at this number, you can also call 309-999-4029 or search for your specific need at

Be Prepared for Cold Weather

It’s no secret that we are now entering the coldest time of winter, with wind chill temperatures often falling below zero. If you are in need of a place to find warmth but are unsure where to go, there are many places in the Peoria area available to help you. The team at 2-1-1 is always available to direct you to various warming sites and to the resources that you need this winter.

The cold can be just as dangerous as the heat, and it is important to take precautions. Extreme cold can cause frostbite within minutes. Due to the body’s protection of its vital organs, blood flow is cut off from extremities, causing frostbite. Additionally, the body’s temperature drops and metabolism slows down, causing sluggishness and confusion, which can be dangerous in any decision-making situation. In the bitter cold, it is important to cover all exposed skin, and to be aware of the state of your mental faculties.

During these cold times, if you are even in need of assistance of any type, don’t hesitate to call 211. The Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 program is a free, confidential program that connects those in need with organizations that can give assistance. To utilize the 2-1-1 program, you can call 211 from any land line or cell phone. If you are having trouble connecting, you can also call 309-999-4029 or visit to search for your specific need.

A Little Help Can Make Ends Meet

Did you know January is Poverty in America Awareness Month? Have you, or someone you know, ever been in a situation where you are unable to acquire the basic necessities? If you are unsure about where to find help, the Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 is an incredible resource. This confidential, free number will connect you with a trained staff member who will be able to put you in contact with readily available services. There are many local organizations that are able to assist those in emergency situations.

This month dedicated to poverty awareness was initiated by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), and is part of the larger program, Poverty, USA. According to the CCHD, 46.2 million, or 1 in 6 Americans live below the poverty line. 1 in 7 American households are food insecure, and 1.6 million children stayed in some sort of emergency housing in 2012 alone. This is not just a national problem, however. Poverty affects our local residents as well. In 2012, the poverty rate for all Peoria region households was 13.7 percent, and the poverty rate of households with children under 18 was 19.4 percent.

There are many organizations that are able to help those in need. The Peoria Friendship House offers services such as an emergency food program, rent/utilities assistance, a thrift closet, and assisting with new baby needs. The local Salvation Army helps individuals with emergency shelter, child care, and veterans’ services, among other things. For a full list of organizations able to help, look for the 2-1-1 website’s search page, and search for your need at

If you are in a situation where you are able to assist those who find themselves in need of help, local organizations are always happy to receive help through donations or time spent volunteering. During this month of poverty awareness, it is important to recognize the poverty within our communities, and to do what we are able to eradicate this problem. Remember, if you are in need of assistance and don’t know where to turn, dial 211. If you have trouble connecting, you can also call 309-999-4029, or search for your need at