Last year, Hurricane Ian devastated Sanibel and Captiva, two islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Many residents are still working to rebuild their homes and to recover emotionally from the storm.
Maria Espinoza is the executive director of F.I.S.H. of SANCAP, a community organization.
Espinoza: “Right after the storm, there was a sense that Sanibel and Captiva would rebuild and it would rebuild quickly. I think we needed that hopefulness, seeing all the devastation around us. But it’s clear that this is going to be a long-term process.”
After a weather disaster, survivors may need mental health support for months or even years.
But Espinoza says there were no mental health providers on Sanibel or Captiva islands.
So her organization now partners with SalusCare, a mental health care provider, to offer weekly group therapy sessions and counseling appointments.
Espinoza: “Almost the very first time we had our group and someone came in … I remembered them from giving them a case of water right after the storm. I embraced them, and they said, ‘This is the first time I’ve gotten a hug since Hurricane Ian. All my neighbors have gone away. You have no idea how much I needed this.’”
For many, this emotional support is a key step toward rebuilding their lives.
Reporting Credit: Ethan Freedman / ChavoBart Digital Media