Planning is key to weathering a storm

July 1, 2013 11:15 AM

Joseph Halm

When she moved from Orange County, Calif., to New Orleans in 2010 to enroll in the Tulane University School of Social Work, Amanda Karistai had no idea how to prepare for a hurricane. But now she’s a seasoned expert.

Jane Parker and Amanda Karistai

Professor Jane Parker, left, director of the Tulane University Institute for Psychosocial Health, and Amanda Karistai look at a hurricane evacuation map of Louisiana. (Photo by Joseph Halm)

Karistai earned a Certificate in Disaster Mental Health along with her master of social work degree in 2011. She shared her hurricane preparedness research from her professional project along with personal tips with a group of about 35 social work students on Thursday (June 27) as part of a special learning experience provided by the Tulane University Institute for Psychosocial Health.

“This project was particularity meaningful to me because I had never been through a hurricane before,” she says. “The biggest thing is just to have a plan because it helps lessen the anxiety.”

She serves as a program director at Behavioral Health Group in New Orleans. In addition to her own caseload, she oversees services for nearly 500 patients with addiction to opiates, and still finds time to volunteer to talk about hurricane preparedness to help others.

According to Karistai, hurricanes affect a person in four different ways — psychologically, monetarily, emotionally and physically.

“I’m usually a very focused person so when that flew out the window the first time a storm came long, it was a little unnerving,” she says. “But those types of feelings are normal. Those feelings are okay to have in the moment.”

Karistai says structure is key in times of stress. Eating meals at normal times, exercising — even if it’s just a walk inside your home — and staying hydrated will all help bring mental stability.

“I think that people forget how resilient human beings are,” she says. “It’s really amazing how we’re built to create our own resiliency. It may take a little longer than we might want, but it will happen if we are prepared and take care of ourselves.”

For more information about hurricane preparedness, visit the Tulane University Emergency Management website and the NOLA Ready website.

Joseph Halm is marketing/communications coordinator for the Tulane School of Social Work.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu