Local News

People at 'wits end' seek help for emotional scars left by Hurricane Matthew

Posted July 12

— Nine months ago, people in parts of North Carolina were underwater. Entire towns were inundated with Hurricane Matthew's floodwaters, and homes and businesses were destroyed.

Since October, the water has receded and rebuilding is underway, but for some, the emotional impact remains.

Joyce Elwood and her three children with autism have stayed in the living room of a friend's house since the storm hit.

Elwood needs a wheelchair to get around. During the storm she said she sat chest-high in flood water.

"The whole house, everything, movies, floating," she said. "Chairs already turned upside down off of the floor, and then the linoleum tile, it had buckled up."

The family was stuck in the water inside their home overnight. The next day, they were rescued.

"I myself was trying not to drown, and my daughter...was trying not to drown," Elwood said.

The loss of their home has been emotionally devastating for the family.

"People are just at their wits end and they are saying, 'I need to talk to somebody. I need more help,'" said Laressa Witt with Alliance Behavioral Healthcare. "We've had to do that as well."

Witt said the organization had provided crisis counseling for about 300 Hurricane Matthew victims. In addition, they have helped 3,300 with short-term intervention to help ease some emotional wounds.

"They don't have any idea when their housing is going to be complete, so we are finding a lot of families are just stressed and they are tired and they want to go home," Witt said.

Elwood said she is grateful to have survived.

"I'm happy that I survived through this and it's great to know that God spared me and my kids," Elwood said.

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