Doctor says mental health struggles follow disasters
by James Phillips
Jun 14, 2011 | 1912 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Syed R. Aftab, medical director for the Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center and the Walker Baptist Medical Center Behavioral Medicine Unit, spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Jasper Monday and warned of possible instances of post traumatic stress disorder that could occur for residents in tornado-ravaged areas.

Despite seeing no local cases of PTSD resulting from the April 27 tornadoes that struck several areas in Walker County, Aftab said many have been identified statewide.

“We have seen many in Alabama, but none in this area,” he said. “At this point, the initial response of many people is to get themselves together. They are busy enough trying to get things in order that you don’t see signs of post traumatic stress.”

Aftab said symptoms of PTSD could take up to a year to manifest.

“In a disaster, you may see symptoms early and they go away,” he said. “There are also many, many cases where as time goes by that symptoms of post traumatic stress start to show themselves. As times goes by the symptoms can grow.”

Children are also susceptible to PTSD, Aftab said. He urged parents in storm-damaged areas to watch for mood swings in their children.

“Usually the first sign of PTSD in children is they become irritable,” he said. “Irritability can be a sign of depression or severe fear.”

Aftab said the National Child Traumatic Stress Network ( is a good resource for parents.

“They have plenty of printouts that can help parents,” he said.

Aftab said anyone, ages 19 to 65, suffering from symptoms of PTSD can contact Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center at 205-387-4545 or drop by its office in Jasper for an assessment. He said parents with children who may have symptoms should contact Children’s Hospital.