Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on the Mental Health of Children, Youth and Adults

Hurricanes and other natural disasters can have long-term and harmful effects on the mental health of children, youth, and adults. So says a recent report from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to school leaders dealing with effects of Hurricane Harvey eight months after the storm.

Based on the latest research on the effects of disasters on mental health, TEA estimated that schools will observe higher rates of mental health challenges resulting from exposure to the traumatic effects associated with the storm, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PSTD is a condition that can develop by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event; including a natural disaster. That impact may happen immediately or may manifest after some time, the report noted,  and experiencing a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, can impact mental health, learning and school performance for students.

TEA also reported that trauma can lead to behavior changes, lower GPAs, increased suspensions and expulsions, increased number of students dropping out of school, higher rates of absences, interference with concentration and memory, and decreased reading ability. Although extremely rare, some individuals may be at increased risk of suicide if they suffer from severe PSTD or depression.

Common emotional and behavioral reactions reported among children and youth include:

> Feelings of insecurity, unfairness, anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, despair, or worries about the future
> A sense of helplessness, fear that another hurricane will strike
> Believing myths or folklore to explain the cause of the hurricane
> Disruptive behaviors, irritability, agitation, hyperactivity, avoiding activities or situations
> Increased discipline infractions among displaced students
> Regressive behaviors in young children such as; clinging/dependent behaviors or temper tantrums
> Physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, headaches, loss of appetite, sleep problems and nightmares
> Increased concerns regarding the safety of pets, family members, friends, or loved ones
> School-based problems with diminished concentration, decreased motivation and academic performance.

Read the full TEA report here.

The Council on Recovery is now offering its counseling and treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults at no charge for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, thanks to a generous grant from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Contact The Council for more information.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 29

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 29 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe was approx 9.5 million.  In 1950, it was approx 3.5 million.  While there were some emigrations before the intense Nazi persecutions began in 1938 and after WWII ended in 1945, the vast bulk of that reduction was the systematic murder of nearly 6 million by the Nazis during that intervening period. The Holocaust was a wretched chapter in human history and we can debate forever why and how it could possibly have happened…especially considering the vast number of both victims who were killed and perpetrators who made conscious decisions to participate in the killing or ignore the reality that it was happening.

Wars and horrific events that are occasioned by wars are an ever present experience in the history of the human species.  They have always seemed to me to have happened when our basest natures begin to rule our activities, for whatever reasons. It is almost as if wars and the horrific events around wars represent the collective of societies acting out in a massive alcoholic rage. I believe there is a parallel here to each of us in our diseased states.

Our individual alcoholism, the elements of our psyches that set us up to an ugly descent into the abyss of demoralization, shame, fear, and pain, may have had many causes. These conditions can happen for collectives as well. Thinking of what happened in the Holocaust, in all its phases, it seems that there are parallels to the most despicable of our behaviors in our diseased states.

This may be why, for those of us fully committed to living lives in the pursuit of sobriety, our new-found, 12-step based behavior is so critical to the societies in which we live. It is clear that the experience of the long history of the human species is to higher and higher levels of consciousness. As human societies evolve to these greater states, those of us carrying the message, modeling new behavior, motivated solely from a consciousness of service, will be the agents of ultimate change.  Service to everyone, individually and collectively, service to the Cosmos from a profound position of humility, must be our fundamental calling.

Kristen Johnston Helps The Council on Recovery Raise $440K to Fund Addiction Prevention, Education, & Treatment Programs

Two-time Emmy Award-winning actress and best-selling author Kristen Johnston inspired a crowd of 900 with her personal story of addiction and recovery this past Thursday at the Hilton Americas-Houston. In the process, she helped The Council on Recovery raise more than $440,000 to provide prevention, education, and treatment services in the Greater Houston area.

Ann McCullough Shallenberger

Johnston was the keynote speaker at the 35th Annual Spring Luncheon in The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series presented by the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation. The Luncheon also honored long-time Council board member and friend, Anne McCullough Shallenberger, with The Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her commitment, service, and dedication to The Council’s mission.


Devon Anderson, Kristen, Bob Newhouse

With preceding remarks from Luncheon co-chairs, Devon Anderson and Bob Newhouse, and heartfelt introduction by Jerri Duddlesten-Moore, Kristen Johnston praised The Council on Recovery’s work. She said, “I’ve been speaking for a while and going all over, and this [The Council on Recovery] is the most comprehensive treatment center. What you’re doing here is truly unique.”

Speaking of her own struggles with addiction, Kristen spoke of the stigma that often surrounds addiction and the importance for those who are in recovery to address that stigma. Sober 13 years, Kristen said, “There is still a lot of work to be done to get our voices heard…to help break down the stigma that, once in recovery, it’s not something to openly talk about.”

Kristen echoed the concerns voiced by Devon Anderson about challenges that young people face amidst the new technologies that have become highly addictive in their own right. Kristen’s own passion for helping adolescents was recently reflected in the publicized work she did to help establish New York City’s first sober high school.

June Waggoner and late husband Virgil are the benefactors of The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series in honor and memory of their son, Jay Waggoner, whom they lost to alcoholism. Since the luncheon series’ creation in 1999, it has attracted nearly 33,000 people and raised over $14 Million. Past luncheon speakers include Rob Lowe, Patrick Kennedy, Ashley Judd, Tom Arnold, Lynda Carter, Paul Williams, Richard Dreyfuss, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jim Belushi, and Earl Campbell.


As Trauma From Hurricane Harvey Persists, The Council on Recovery Launches Free Counseling & Treatment for Those Still Struggling

Grant from Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund Allows Council to Provide Free Help for Trauma, Mental Health Issues, and Substance Use Disorders to People Affected by the Storm

Thanks to a grant received from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, The Council on Recovery is now offering all of its services at no cost to qualified hurricane victims. The Council will provide counseling, treatment, and support to individuals and families affected by storm-related trauma, substance abuse issues, and mental health disorders. These free services will help those who are still struggling to recover nearly eight months after the hurricane hit the coast of Texas.

Mel Taylor

“Since the hurricane, we’ve continuously provided help to both flood victims and those whose lives were disrupted by the storm,” says Mel Taylor, President & CEO of The Council. “The trauma people experienced precipitated or compounded many addiction and mental health issues that we still deal with every day,” Taylor says, “For some, the financial distress caused by Harvey makes treatment at any cost unaffordable. This funding will allow us to serve those people and remain the starting point for everyone who needs help.”

The Council on Recovery will provide direct services across its broad spectrum of behavioral health and substance abuse programs to individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey. Services such as assessment, evaluation, intensive education, clinical treatment, case management, and recovery support will be expanded beyond current capacity. Those who qualify will receive these services at no charge.

“Our slogan is ‘You Know Someone Who Needs Us’,” Taylor says, “and Hurricane Harvey amplified that message across the Houston area. Thanks to the generous grant from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, we’ll continue to meet the vital needs of our community with commitment and compassion.”

For more information, call The Council on Recovery at (713) 942-4100 or visit

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 28

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 28 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

Days of Wine & Roses

When I was 19, in 1962, I remember going to see the movie Days of Wine and Roses, about a couple struggling with alcoholism. Joe, played by Jack Lemmon, and Kirsten, played by Lee Remick, descend from active social drinking into desperate alcoholism.  An otherwise normal couple in the corporate world of New York in the 1950’s, their descent is gradual until numerous bouts of out-of-control binging begin to destroy their lives.  Joe pursues recovery through AA, with Jack Klugman as Jim, his sponsor, providing an excellent portrayal of the sponsor role.  Kirsten struggles much more mightily with the disease but fails in the end.  Joe and she split up and she just disappears into a world of out-of-control drinking.

From my perspective, this movie is one of the really good, early-on portrayals of the true nature of this disease.  It also resonates with me because it carries the imagery and ambiance, and the ever presence of alcohol, of the business world in New York where I began my adult life.

We all know that there are many more sad stories of people in this disease than there are happy ones. When I saw this movie, I was far away from my disease, although my father had struggled his whole life, so I had some inkling.  But the movie’s end struck me very powerfully.  Joe was in recovery, and Kirsten, still in the disease, came to see him to suggest they get back together.  He says he will but only if she gives up drinking.  She responds, “Joe, the world looks so dirty to me when I am not drinking.  Remember Fisherman’s Wharf…the water so fuzzy when you looked too close? That’s the way the world looks to me when I am not drinking.”

The movie closes with Joe looking out the window of his apartment into a rainy night seeing Kirsten walk away down the street and disappear.  The power of that scene to me at the time, a 19 year old in 1962, begs some explanation, which I cannot provide.  Perhaps it was some element of the imbedded nature of my life with alcohol present even at such an early time.  But, whatever it was, from the perspective of today, it is a spectacular manifestation of what we can enjoy in the continuing pursuit of committed sobriety.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 27

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 27 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

The United States Declaration of Independence is the basic expression of the principles, the mythic structure that is our American Nation. The “truths (held) to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” that “governments are instituted among men deriving their just rights (only) from the consent of the governed,” is the foundation of all that we espouse. They are the necessary bases for our way of life, despite the myriad of experiences that may happen from time to time where we fail to live up to these tenets. In the final analysis, all of our levels of government can only be successful if they are willing to fall back to these principles to resolve disputes.

However, it is my belief that the only communities of women and men that live up to these basic American principles in an almost absolute fashion are Alcoholics Anonymous and its fellow Twelve Step programs. We have no leaders, our volunteers and service personnel do not govern. Our only authority is a loving God as he may express himself through our Group Conscience.  Decisions about how our Fellowships are to proceed are made by Groups operating only with the Steps and Traditions to guide them. In times of stress and conflict, we can all fall back on our basic Steps and Traditions, and our collective commitments to sobriety, to restore order.

I consider myself an avowed American with a firm commitment to the principles of our American Founding…and living in the communities of 12 Step programs reinforces the joy I have felt since birth about living in an American world based on these principles.

Of course, the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions could not be the only things that would determine the stability of the broader societies that represent our Nation. Multi-tiered governmental systems are necessary to enact laws, prosecute and restrain the lawless, and interpret conflicting dicta that may derail societal systems. Without them, the innate chaotic tendencies of many of us could destroy us.  But we in the Fellowships seem to avoid these breakdowns by our own individual and collective commitment to sobriety.

For all of us sufferers of addiction, the similarities of our Groups to American societal systems provide for wonderful reflection on the beauty of our Fellowships.  But it is the fundamental commitment we all feel to the success of these Fellowships that is the real magic, and the one that keeps us from the occasional breakdowns in functioning that might happen in other, broader systems.