The people in Hawaii were sent into extreme scare about a week ago as alerts went out on a multitude of different avenues letting people know that a ballistic missile was about to hit and to seek shelter immediately. The scare caused a lot of emotions and had an impact on millions of people across the entire country. That being said, the repercussions of this event are not necessarily all negative. Here are 4 varying mental health impacts that stemmed from Hawaii’s False Alarm:
1) Reality Check
During the potential for a tragedy to occur, people are often given a reality check. When people are faced with life and death or loss situations, we tend to quickly put into perspective what matters most. As we reflect on major life events: 9-11, massive storms, and the false alarm in Hawaii, hours before those events occurred—traffic mattered, buying ‘stuff’ mattered, and what you were going to wear that weekend mattered. But in the moment of, and following each of those events, traffic didn’t matter, buying ‘stuff’ wasn’t important, and you really didn’t care about your clothing at all. You begin to reflect on the importance of those you love, who you shouldn’t have been mad at, and how small you really are on this planet.
The outcome: For several weeks, people in Hawaii and across the nation will think about what matters most to them and reflect on their altered perspective of live. But, this perspective doesn’t always last long. It is important to pause every once in a while, especially during the chaos of your day, and remember the moments that gave you a reality check and reflect on what matters most to you.
2) Flashbulb Memories
The Hawaii false alarm has the potential to bring back visions, nightmares, and increased stress to people who already have PTSD from similar experiences. But for those people who did not previously have PTSD, there is a high likelihood that they will have created a flashbulb memory. Flashbulb memories are memories that our brain stores at one point in our life, but can be remembered over a lifetime. When people face major, potentially life-changing events, their minds have the ability to create a flashbulb memory because of the emotional power behind the event. In the case of Hawaii’s false alarm, for decades to come, people will remember where they were standing when they saw the alert come through, how they felt, and what they did in order to react to the situation.
The outcome: It is important to understand the power of emotions and how our brain responds, reacts, and remembers events.
3) ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ Feeling
The false alarm in Hawaii may have the potential to cause a “boy who cried wolf” impact for the future. In the past, we have seen this type of impact from weather alerts. Take, for example, the state of Florida. There have been times when a storm was projected to follow a certain route, people prepared and the hurricane did little, if any damage. Then, the next hurricane is to follow, and people do not take as many precautions. After events that could have been significantly worse than originally planned, like that of Hawaii’s false alarm, sometimes the initial response from people during the subsequent event is, “is this real this time?”
The outcome: Always take an alert from the government, weather center, etc. serious. It is always better to be safe than sorry. It might mean more planning, preparing and time up front, but in the event the alert is real, you may save your life and that of your family’s.
According to the Washington Post, there were no deaths in Hawaii from the false alarm and no looting of businesses. Despite all the chaos, despite all the opportunity to take from another person, people were responsible with their behaviors and actions. For a state to come together and respect one another, this can bring a sense of security. The false alarm has also allowed for improvements to be made with software systems and the way that we will alert people in the future.
The outcome: Sometimes setbacks and failures—even major ones like the false alarm in Hawaii—can be a learning lesson to come back stronger, more knowledgeable and better prepared.
*This piece was written by licensed mental health counselor and life coach Dr. Jamie Kulaga. Find out more about her by visiting her website or tuning into her podcast, The Dr. Jaime Show, on YouTube or iTunes. *