Campaign to show impact of flooding on mental health launched

The Environment Agency has launched a new campaign to highlight the impact flood damage has on mental health, advising people on the importance of signing up to flood alerts.

Research highlighted by the Environment Agency this Flood Action Week shows that experiencing damage caused by extreme weather such as storms or flooding can increase the chance of facing mental health problems such as stress and depression by 50 per cent.

As further evidence to encourage the public to be better prepared for the potentially devastating impacts of flooding, the research also claims that a quarter of people who have been flooded still live with these issues at least two years after the event.

Flooding often results in people having to move out of their homes, displacing them from their community for many months. It can then have a negative impact on mental health for several reasons – from the financial repercussions of fixing extensive damage to the loss of sentimental items and the stress it places on victims’ relationships.

Taking action to prepare for a flood can reduce damages by around 40 per cent as well as reducing the likelihood of suffering from mental health impacts in the future, which is why the Environment Agency is calling on those at risk to familiarise themselves with its ‘Prepare, Act, Survive’ guidance

Mary Dhonau, who runs a specialist independent flood resilience consultancy, said: “When my street flooded in 2000, we had just found out my youngest son was severely autistic. The bewilderment when he realised the flood had ruined his toys was devastating. One of my neighbours who is severely agoraphobic had to move out of her house, and another who had been recently widowed found all her wedding photographs had been ruined by the floodwater. Living through a flood is the most appalling experience and really does compound issues you are already dealing with.

“I campaign to raise awareness of flooding because I know – first-hand and through thousands of people’s stories I’ve heard through my work – what the true impact of a flood can be. Check whether you are at risk, sign up for flood alerts and make the necessary preparations. You will need all the mental strength you have if the worst should happen.”