This past Super Bowl was an incredibly strange one for me. As someone who was raised with American football being blasted on television in the suburban Texas Gulf Coast, and her mother hollering at the television when her team made a horrendous play, I felt like I was betraying my upbringing by simply not caring who won. Even stranger, not even the Super Bowl commercials appealed to me. Well, none of them except the commercials that mentioned Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in passing. This is why whenever natural disaster strikes, we should focus on the mental well-being of others as well as their physical needs.
I was sitting in Smashburger eating my tator tots when I saw a familiar image on the big screen: the intersection of Highland Sage and Sunset Glen completely underwater. After that image, an even more familiar image popped up: Harris County Office Deputy Rick Johnson rescuing two children from the floodwaters. It was one of the many, many images circulating on local news after Hurricane Harvey ravaged a good chunk of Houston and much of the Texas Gulf Coast. The average New Yorker might not have cared much about it, but as a born-and-bred Houstonian, I was so overcome with emotion at that point that I very excitedly said to a guy next to me, “Oh, wow, that’s my hometown!”
That was probably the most emotion I displayed over anything Super Bowl-related this year. Thank you, Verizon, who is not my cellular provider, for making this possible.
Although my house was not physically impacted by Harvey, apart from fallen tree limbs, I finally realized the event had a major impact on my mental health. When I came back to Hofstra for the fall semester, it was raining. I was never a big fan of rain to begin with, but after Harvey, I realized I become incredibly tense and anxious every time it rains, even if I don’t have to be outside in it.
It is easy to assess the damage from Harvey in terms of money. Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in damage, per the National Hurricane Center, second only to Hurricane Katrina. But the emotional impact is not so simple to measure.
However, just because it cannot be measured with numbers does not mean it does not exist. Per CBS News, research says the most common mental health issues that occur after a natural disaster like Harvey are anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This fact should be something to think about with the rise of natural disasters because of human-accelerated global climate change.
Part of the reason why the Verizon commercial was so powerful was not just because most of the other commercials didn’t stack up. Sure, there was the typical “they used our service in times of crisis, so there’s that” technique, but I didn’t feel disrespected by their displaying of Houstonians helping Houstonians.
The most powerful aspect of that commercial was that it acknowledged that there was more to the Harvey aftermath than just the physical damage and the cost. It recognized that there was a mental health component to it too. The sentence, “I don’t know if you remember me, but my kids remember you,” signaled to me that mental health, specifically the kids’ mental health, was being respected by honoring someone who helped them through a difficult time.
It’s so easy to focus on the physical damage when natural disasters happen. But let’s not forget about the mental damage either.
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