Eruption could take mental toll on adults, children

HILO — The current volcanic activity in lower Puna and at the summit of Kilauea volcano can take a mental toll on those who are impacted, including children.

Laura Moidel Acevedo, a licensed mental health counselor in Hilo, advises parents whose children might be threatened by disasters to draft a plan ahead of time and “talk (about the plan) with their kids so that they know, even if they don’t have control (over an emergency situation) you at least, as a parent, have some kind of plan.”

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“Children, even more so than an adult, have a feeling that they don’t have control over their lives,” Acevedo said. “So it’s hard for them to understand why this is happening and there’s bound to be an increase in anxiety because of that. So the kinds of things that can help them are calmly talking to your kids about what’s actually going on and discussing ‘what are we going to do if this happens?’

“You don’t want to scare them, but at the same time you want to keep them informed and keep them in the loop.”

Public schools have had counseling services available for students and staff since the first earthquake occurred earlier this month, said Lindsay Chambers, a media specialist with the state Department of Education.

The state Department of Health’s Crisis Line of Hawaii also is available to those seeking help to cope with the mental or emotional effects connected with the ongoing eruptions.

Available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, the crisis line can be reached toll-free at 1-800-753-6879.

People who have feelings of stress and anxiety can call the line to receive short-term confidential counseling and information about available resources, according to an announcement from the DOH.

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The Parent Line, a locally-based statewide service providing support, informal counseling, information and referral to callers who have concerns about their child’s behavior, issues regarding family stresses or questions about community resources, is available from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. Call 1-800-816-1222 or visit theparentline.org for more information.

Reporter Stephanie Salmons contributed to this report.