PHILIPSBURG:--- In the aftermaths of hurricanes Irma and Maria the Police Department has noticed a trend in the unnecessary violent and or aggressive behavior among person within the community. This behavior which is unlike that, under other circumstances, has the fullest attention of the police department and will be dealt with in accordance with the law. This violent and aggressive behavior according to the Health Care Psychologist Miranda Veltman, who has been working for the police force of Sint Maarten since the passing of these hurricanes, that these psychological symptoms can be experienced by anyone after a major natural disaster such as hurricane Irma or any other disaster.
Mrs. Veltman stated that; a stressful experience of that magnitude can cause an increase in violence by adults as well as youth. In the last few weeks and days the criminal offences have become more violent by the youth and as well as by adults such as; violent armed robberies, a group students ill-treating another student with a baseball bat, shooting incident in Middle Region, fatal stabbing in Sint Peters and a man pushing his fiancée from his moving vehicle, just to name a few.
During a disaster, your mind is so focused on surviving that it tends to function on ‘automatic pilot’. After things calm down in 4 to 6 weeks, your mind gets the chance to realize what happened. At this point, some people can go into shock. Some people can experience numbness and/or denial at first. After this initial shock other stress reactions can be experienced. These could be:
- having flashbacks
- negative mood changes
- dissociative symptoms (not aware of your surroundings)
- avoiding situations
- getting easily irritated or become aggressive
When people have unhealthy coping styles, like drinking alcohol or using drugs, aggression can increase.
The human resilience dictates that the majority of survivors will naturally recover from disasters over time. They will move on without having severe, long-lasting mental health issues. Certain factors increase resilience after disasters.
An important factor is the severity of the exposure. At highest risk are those that go through the disaster themselves. Injury and life threat are the factors that lead most often to mental health problems. Other risk factors to develop a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) have to do with the age, gender, culture, the network and other factors specific to the survivor (Mental Health Effects following Disaster: Risk and Resilience Factors, 2015 and DSM-5, 2013 ). According American research between the 30%-50% of the people who experienced a Hurricane (natural disaster), develop Post Traumatic Stress and need psychological guidance.
People with developing stress symptoms without the necessary help show an increase in these symptoms. For instance aggression-like symptoms will become worse and can endanger the individual or their environment.
The advice of the Police Department and that of the psychologist Mrs. Veltman is to immediately seek professional help when stress reactions are very severe and do not decrease over a period time or even become worse. Ask your General Practitioner (house doctor) for a referral to a professional.
A lot of people lost their jobs after these major hurricanes. According to research, crime increases with poverty. Study shows that caregivers as well as youth can commit crime. It is important to keep an eye on those who go through a difficult time. Be there for each other and help your direct environment/ neighbor. Emotional support can reduce stress and help people to cope better with the situation. It is important that during stressful times to not neglect children. It is common that youth who committed crimes to have been physically and or emotionally abused or neglected. “It takes a village to raise a child”. Give children positive attention and try to be available for them. Children can be happy with less but they always will need emotional support.
The Police department will support and will work together with any and all other instances who have taken this issue very seriously in the benefit of the community of Sint Maarten.
KPSM Police Report