As families recover, expert says children's mental health should be taken into consideration following deadly floods

Waverly flooding sky 5 8/21/21
Posted at 11:40 AM, Aug 29, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As recovery begins healing can take place beyond the physical for Humphreys County flood survivors.

“So a lot of times our focus is elsewhere and we might not be able to pick up on these things right away," said Nicole Pillar, a therapist at the Harmony Family Center. “So it’s just very important that our parents just take a step back and members of the community - whether you’re working with them in the church or you’re a teacher, just being able to recognize these different signs can be pretty important.”

She is spending her time in Waverly offering counseling to some of the youngest survivors. “I’ve heard parents say like oh they’re just kind of stuck on a certain moment that they had or that they’re having a lot of trouble sleeping," Pillar said.

She said it’s a normal response to such a traumatic event, especially for children.

“Being withdrawn, even regressing in behavior," she said. "So maybe your child stopped sucking their thumb a couple of years ago and now they’re picking up that behavior.” Other symptoms of trauma include disobedience, difficulty focusing and changes in their physical health.

“So there can be some neurological impacts due to trauma," said Pillar. "It can change the functioning of the brain and some kids might struggle for not only two weeks... but they can be seeing symptoms within a year or two still."

She said that’s why it may be crucial to get children the help they need as their brains continue to develop and process the event. “[Therapy] can really actually just give the parents the tools of how to be with their child in the moment, how to walk them through those things, how to regulate them.”

As parents and children begin the road to recovery they won’t have to walk it alone, thanks to others like Pillar who are willing to help, along the way.

The Humphreys County Sheriff's Office said additional counseling will be made available for residents Monday, August 39 through Friday, September 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations:

Three Rivers Fellowship
615 W. Main Street in Waverly

New Johnsonville Church of Christ
204 Long Street in New Johnsonville

Richland Avenue Church of Christ
Richland Avenue in Waverly

First Baptist Church of McEwen
75 E. Long Street in McEwen