Basement flooding can have long-term effects on mental health: study

Melanie Borrelli, CTV Windsor


Published Tuesday, June 12, 2018 4:59PM EDT


Last Updated Tuesday, June 12, 2018 7:04PM EDT

A south Windsor woman vividly remembers the sinking feeling of water flooding into her basement.  

Linda Naismith was one of thousands of Windsor-Essex residents impacted by the heavy storm and subsequent flooding Aug. 28 and Aug 29, 2017.

“There was six inches of water in the whole basement so the whole rec room was flooded and all the furnature in it. It was mind-boggling,” says Naismith.

“I’d say it’s very stressful to have your home, to have that happen to stuff and we threw out all kinds of things.”

Naismith hopes they have put the proper precautions in place so they don’t have to worry about it anymore.

“Put it into the context of what do I need to do to stay well. Dwelling on it or fearing another one happening is not a path of wellness.” 

While she feels they have a handle on it, many are still struggling, according to a study by the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.

“It turns out about 50 per cent of people rank themselves as highly stressed every time it rains,” says Blair Feltmate, head of the centre and co-author of the report.

The study, called “After the Flood – The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Lost Time from Work“, surveyed homeowners three years after a major storm 3,500 homes in Burlington.

It also found on average, people miss seven days of work to deal with their flooded basement.

Feltmate says they have been working with federal and provincial organizations to help solve the problem, starting with training home inspectors.

“Home inspectors in this province recieve virtually no training in basement flood risk assessment,” says Feltmate.

Feltmate says in order to relieve long-term stress, homeowners have to feel confident they will never flood again. 

“What we’re working on now is developing a mechanism, someone they can call, who is properly trained who can come in and say ‘fix these things around your house’ and the probability of flooding around your home is much lower,” says Feltmate.

Mental Health Educator Jenny Lee Almeida says it’s normal to feel anxiety over basement flooding.

“Any natural disaster can impact or exasberate our mental health. It causes distress and disruption in our every day lives.”

Almeida has some tips for anyone it that situation.

“Identify that it’s ok that I’m not feeling ok, and it’s great to access resources so you can contact an EAP provider, just speaking about it, venting, talk therapy is wonderful.”



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