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Understanding and Supporting Individuals and Communities Affected by Floods


In 2021, the serene town of Lismore in New South Wales, Australia, was shaken to its core by a terrifying sequence of events. Lismore was hit by devastating floods of unmatched scale in February and March of that year. These catastrophic floods destroyed physical infrastructure and left severe emotional wounds on the individuals and towns they enveloped. This study aims to shed light on the devastating effect of such floods on the mental health of Lismore residents and the communities impacted by these natural disasters. Beyond recognizing this effect, we investigate the essential role of social workers in providing support and intervention to persons experiencing disaster-related mental health difficulties (Shi & Hall, 2020). It is impossible to stress the necessity of treating mental health issues in the context of climate change and catastrophes.

Extreme weather events caused by climate change are growing more frequent and severe, presenting a direct danger to people’s psychological well-being. The consequences of a flood extend well beyond the immediate aftermath, sometimes leaving lifelong emotional scars that need expert attention and care (Royce & Tondorf, 2022). The study’s primary goals are to investigate the psychological effects of floods on people and communities using empirical data and personal tales. Also, to clarify the role of mental health professionals in providing flood-related trauma assistance and interventions. We will also look at the neuroscientific roots of flood-related depression and how neuroplasticity could be used for managing it.

Flood-Related Trauma and Support

Persistent anxiety and panic disorders may be brought on by uncertainty about the future, the constant worry of another flood, and the loss of safety. People may be restless, anxious, and have panic episodes (Longman et al., 2019). Depression symptoms, such as prolonged sadness, lack of interest in activities, and adjustments to sleep and eating, may be brought on by the loss of homes, belongings, and communal structures. Flood survivors may go through complex or long grieving processes because of how abrupt and painful the loss was (Gissing, 2022). The loss of a loved one or the destruction of their houses may be difficult for them to accept.

Role of a Mental Health Worker in Providing Support and Interventions

Survivors might feel less alone with the support and affirmation these sessions provide. People who gain from shared coping mechanisms and social support may find group therapy helpful. Medication may sometimes be required to treat severe symptoms of trauma connected to floods, such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia (Campisi, 2022). In order to determine if psychopharmacological therapies are necessary and to track their efficacy, mental health professionals and psychiatrists may collaborate. They may also inform people about the need to take their medications as prescribed and any negative effects.

Alternative methods of trauma processing may be found in creative treatments, including dance/movement therapy, music therapy, and art therapy. Mental health professionals may use these techniques in their interventions to enable survivors to communicate their feelings and experiences nonverbally. These techniques may be particularly helpful for those with trouble expressing their emotions vocally. Narrative therapy aims to assist survivors in rewriting their own stories, highlighting their fortitude and resiliency. Mental health professionals may assist individuals in reframing their flood-related experiences by emphasizing their resilience and capacity for adaptation (Gissing, 2022). This method empowers survivors to view themselves as authors of their narratives rather than powerless victims.

Person-Centered Care in a Mental Health Team Setting

Humanistic psychology forms the basis for person-centered care under several principles essential for psychiatric service. The strategy is based on the respect for autonomy. In other words, it involves considering that people affected by floods can decide concerning their care. Such acknowledges that people know more about themselves better than anyone else and, therefore, should participate directly in determining their direction of mental healthcare (Lil et al., 2020). Moreover, person-centered care includes “holistic assessment’ where one evaluates a person’s physical, social, and environmental aspects apart from his or her mental condition.

Another important principle is collaboration. Person-centeredness promotes patient and healthcare teamwork. These include active listening, shared decision-making, and placing the patient’s preferences and goals at the heart of the care plan (Rugendyke & Vanclay, 2023). In addition, person-centered care requires cultural sensitivity to not overlook that people come from different cultural backgrounds. Cultural competence, for instance, is vital in understanding how cultural beliefs, norms, and practices affect mental health and well-being. By taking a person-centered approach, treatment is tailored to an individual’s cultural context, which increases inclusion and equality in mental health services.

The role of mental health staff in response to the effects of a natural disaster on individuals is important. Social workers come to play such a role after a disaster has occurred. They offer numerous services based on person-centered care principles to accommodate each individual’s needs and desires. The other main responsibility entails conducting thorough evaluations. Social workers assess factors that may affect a person’s mental health, such as their mental disorders, family or friend networks, living environment, and culture. Such a detailed evaluation enables the formation of personalized support plans that align with an individual’s aspirations and desires. Through the individual’s planning involvement, social workers ensure that his/her specific needs are addressed first in the care plan, instilling a feeling of autonomy and ownership.

They also provide good leadership in resource coordination and advocacy. They are aware of the intimate relationship between mental health and social determinants. The prosecutors support flood-affected people by ensuring they can access basic resources and services like housing, financial help, and healthcare (Rugendyke & Vanclay, 2023). They bridge individuals and support systems and acknowledge that these factors are critical for mental health recovery. Social workers offer crisis intervention during the time of crisis. They provide emotional support, planning for safety, and immediate access to appropriate mental health services to minimize distress. This responsive approach is consistent with the person-centered care principle of empathy and compassion, establishing a secure environment for individuals to express their emotions, fears, and anxieties.

Cultural competence is another defining characteristic of social work practice. Social workers are good at comprehending cultural differences that may influence a person’s reaction to trauma. They respect and integrate cultural beliefs and practices into the support plan, ensuring that treatment is culturally sensitive and appropriate for the individual (Rogers, 2023). Collaboration is essential to the function of a social worker on a mental health team. They collaborate with psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses to ensure a multidisciplinary approach to care. Social workers contribute valuable information to the overall treatment plan by sharing insights and observations from their person-centered assessments, ensuring that care is comprehensive and tailored to the requirements of the individual.

Supporting Lismore’s Art Gallery Worker: A Case Study

Following Lismore’s terrible February and March 2021 floods, the mental health team presented a compelling case involving Sarah, who had lost her employment at the Lismore Art Gallery due to the flooding (Kurmelovs, 2022). Sarah’s story illustrates the difficulties in providing person-centered care to someone who has experienced trauma connected over. For over ten years, 3wasld Sarah was employed as an artist and curator at the Lismore Art Gallery. Already well-established in the art world, the gallery had great personal and professional value for her, so losing it was not simply a financial setback but also a devastating emotional blow.

The mental health team understood that Sarah’s rehabilitation process needed to be customized to her specific needs and goals since they were well-versed in person-centered treatmentA thorough evaluation was conducted, including her sudden loss of employment but also the broader effects of the disaster on her cultural, mental, and social well-being (Wessell & Thorpe, 2023). The team engaged in extensive dialogue to learn about Sarah’s preferences, values, and aspirations. Evidently, she was enthusiastic about art and desired to participate in the art scene. We created a support plan emphasizing methods for meeting her mental health needs and complementing her goals and interests.

With time, Jane started to show indications of improvement. She had less anxiety and nightmares over time, better sleep, and less emotional discomfort when it rained. Her involvement in art therapy helped her recover her creative identity and gave her a new sense of purpose. Also, Sarah felt respected, listened to, and actively participated in her care, which aligns with person-centered care’s collaborative decision-making premise.


This paper examines the complex intersection of climate change, mental health, and social work, particularly focusing on the context of flood-affected communities such as Lismore. The profound effects of floods on mental health, the role of social workers in providing person-centered care and support, and the neuroscientific comprehension of flood-related sorrow are discussed. In addressing mental health issues worsened by disasters caused by climate change, social work arises as a crucial factor. Future research should continue to investigate innovative intervention strategies and the long-term effects of climate change on mental health. Social workers can lead the way in developing effective, empathic, and culturally sensitive mental health support for those impacted by the ongoing challenges of a changing climate by integrating scientific knowledge with person-centered care principles.


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Kurmelovs, R. (2022, March 2). Fears Lismore art gallery’s entire collection lost in NSW floods. The Guardian.

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