Superstorm Sandy continues to take an emotional toll on Garden State residents well after its first anniversary.

Carol Benevy (l.) and Chaplain Bill Meyer
Carol Benevy (l.) and Chaplain Bill Meyer (Rosetta Key, Townsquare Media NJ)

Carol Benevy, who works with the Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and the New Jersey Hope and Healing Project, says 26,000 residents are still displaced and have put their emotional issues on the back burner.

"People are trying to fix these material concerns, but they're in the code enforcement offices applying for permits and breaking down in the hallways because they had to write yet another list of everything they lost," Benevy said.

She also pointed out, however, that being tearful, stressed out, sleepless, or having trouble concentrating or remembering things are all normal responses to trauma.

The long-term recovery process is expected to take five to eight years, according to Benevy, and the emotional needs of those impacted continue to evolve in the days and years following the storm.

"What we are seeing now are the people who had pre-existing problems and risk factors, like a mental health or an addiction problem or an economic problem prior to the storm, now those people are at very high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder," Benevy said.

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Benevy said that children who were rescued from the storm, or whose homes were destroyed, are also experiencing emotional trauma.

"We're seeing a lot of kids who were impacted," Benevy said, "kids that have nightmares and kids that are clinging to their parents in a way that they weren't before the trauma."

The programs with which Benevy is involved were recently awarded a two-year grant to provide post-Sandy, trauma-informed and suicide prevention services in schools for children in five counties, from grades K through 12.

While the New Jersey Hope and Healing Project is beginning to wind down, Benevy said counseling services are being offered through partner agencies to help adults. She said they're also working with long-term recovery groups to offer spiritual and emotional support for those still impacted by the storm.

You can reach the New Jersey Hope and Healing Command Center at 732-942-5783, or email Benevy directly.

Benevy's interview was a part of Townsquare Media's Townsquare Tonight program, which airs each Wednesday on WOBM-AM 1160 & 1310 and

Listen to the full interview with Benevy and Chaplain Bill Meyer, of the Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice and Palliative Care Center. Meyer is also a member of a long-term recovery group in Ocean County.

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