Mental Health in a Catastrophe – Will You Fall apart?

This is a guest post by Happy Camper and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

Planning ahead

Preppers have secured themselves in the knowledge that they intend for themselves and their families to be safe in a catastrophic event. Do you have a bunker, a bug out location or a bug in plan? The food, medication and sanitation that you have prepared are all for the benefit of our physical well-being.

It is wonderful that preppers are so organized for the items that they will have in a post apocalyptic scenario. But how prepared mentally are we for the items and relationships that will be changed or gone?

The key to maintaining a healthy mental environment is being mindful and aware that mental health is a major factor in preparing, a major factor during a SHTF event and even more so the key to rebuilding and moving forward in a recovery are healthy relationships and a healthy attitude and positive mental health.

The brain

Our brains are the most complex part of our bodies, it is the control center of intelligence, movement, interpretation, decisions and behavior. The most powerful tool that we can take into any situation is our mental wellbeing. Knowing the basics about human reactions and mob behavior could be a huge advantage in a catastrophic event, to be able to understand and anticipate human behaviors and reactions.

Getting to know our own mental well-being and the mental well-being of those around us is important. Any type of psychological trauma can cause the brain to respond in ways that are not expected and are certainly not convenient, psychological trauma can provoke the brain to respond by impairing the functions of behavior, thought control emotions and reasoning. Mental distress can also cause physical effects, including: fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, aches and pains, racing heartbeat, concentration difficulties.

Keeping a balanced mental state is individual to each one of us. What makes you happy? What keeps your relationships moving forward and stress free? What do you need to maintain mental clarity? Make a list of these things, discuss with your family how these things may be able to be maintained in a SHTF situation. Discuss any concerns openly.

After the event

What can cause mental distress? Unstable environments, physical or mental abuse, sexual abuse, separation from a loved one, medical or illness trauma, domestic violence, bullying etc.
The immediate and long term effects of catastrophic events, particularly on children need to be considered. Studies that have been done on children from war torn areas show that around 40% of children develop long term PTSD.

Symptoms that a person is likely to display that will indicate that they are in mental distress, may be evident immediately or not show for a unset period of time. The most common symptoms (as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, AKA the DSM) are: being over emotional, fear, anxiety, depression, self-destructive behaviour and low self-esteem.

Imagine a scenario, that all of your physical preps have been successful. You have enough food to sustain you in the months ahead, any physical wounds are healing and you are feeling secure about the months ahead in regards to surviving. However you have no idea what to expect, your routine is unpredictable, nothing will be the same. Your children are asking you questions that you cant answer. Are you ready for that ? Or can anyone ever be ready for that ?

Is there any point to surviving physically if you and your family end up being mentally broken ?

All humans have needs that need to be fulfilled to maintain mental clarity and order. We need to be aware of our place in the hierarchy, we need to have a sense of independence and responsibility, we need to be mentally stimulated and maintain a mental strategy for the future, we need hope for the future and unity with our group / family or community.

Mental Preparedness suggestions

1. Is there a clear hierarchy and is each member aware of their place in the pack?
2. Each pack member needs to be confident and enjoy the tasks that they have been allocated.
3. A resolution strategy may be effective for group functioning.
4. There should be a basic reward system in place, this offers encouragement and pride.
5. Be aware of peoples mental limitations and phobias.
6. It is important to be aware of before, during and the aftermath, will each have is own set of issues and differences.
7. What personal and important items will be retained? Everyone needs comfort items and items that relate to our personal history.
8. Don’t undervalue anyone else’s personal items, they may have a particular sentimental value.
It is important to remember that some members of the group will get bored, be unwilling to participate or even become destructive (for example emotional children, teenagers or those who are mentally struggling).
9. Provisions for entertainment are very important, boredom can be very negative. The ability to play games for entertainment is invaluable and great for morale. Don’t forget to give compliments and appropriate physical contact (hand-shakes or hugs can be food for the soul)
10. Entertainment is individual and should be shared, adults taking time to play games with their children, reading together etc.
11. The acronym SAFE is used as a reminder for what people mentally need: Partially derived from ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs’
S: Safety and freedom from being harmed
A: Access to basic needs, of food, water, shelter
F: Family and connections to others
E: Education, self Esteem, and Economic security

Suggested reading topics on Google:
Maslow’s model of motivation,
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders AKA the DSM,
Mindfulness and meditation,
Pack behaviours / social hierarchy,
Herd or mob mentality

Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo  courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and 1 Case of Survival Cave Food Chicken with 12 14.5 oz. Cans courtesy of LPC Survival.
  2. Second place winner will receive – $100 off of your next order of Fish Antibiotics courtesy of, a Survival Puck  courtesy of and a Coffee Mug courtesy of Horton Design.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy

Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on March 17 2014


  1. I think this will far harder than any of us can imagine. This is the part I dread the most. My group is my family. My hope is that they will just harden up and be grateful to be alive and provided for. But that probley won’t happen. Instead they will want to return to their easy lives of laying on the couch and endless TV watching.

  2. Good question/premise!

    I like to think that the DW and I will do okay. Part of that is we are ex-soldiers, so we are used to things changing rapidly. Another part is we work hard a getting “unplugged” for mass media, therefore when it “goes away” we won’t be in mental shock over it.

    We have prepped, and continue to, on multiple levels, for multiple possibilities. We’re not where we want to be, but we have significantly more options than those around us.

    I worry about “the masses”. To ones who have for many years abdicated to others the daily decisions of their life. They now believe and expect other will take care of them on demand. 911 will answer and sent the appropriate help, all they have to do is wait. There will be social services to provide them with food, security, and shelter. “Things will get back to normal soon” will get you killed. If the tap water stops, the electricity goes off for more than 24 hours, God forbid the internet and their cell phones don’t work; they’ll freak. They have NO idea how things work. They don’t understand where the water comes from, how the electricity is generated, and that after the 4th day with no pumps, the sewage is going to start backing up!

  3. Excellent article, and something that is necessary to think about. It is strange to me, that I have only considered how I would hold up (as long as I have people to care for, I usually hold up really well).

    When I started prepping, I knew who would be there, and how they would react. My daughter will have problems initially, but will buck up after awhile. My boys will be fine, and most of my grandchildren will at least initially see it as practice for the Marines (used to be Army, until I met DH – their loyalties have now changed), with the possibility of the 9 year old granddaughter – she’s my DD’s girl, and may fall apart if mom does. But I was not worried – I raised her and know how to deal with her.

    However, now I have DH’s daughter and family – who are total unknowns for me. I may be surprised, but I don’t think any of them will hold up very well.

  4. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Happy Camper,
    Excellent article. Has been many moons since I studied human behavior so it was good to have the refresher.
    So much will go on. No caffeine, no tobacco, no drugs or alcohol will have very negative effects on some people. Possibly death.
    And then folks will run out of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.
    And what about those who try to mix up recreational drugs. I know of some plants that are hallucinogenic but also makes the user very aggressive and mean.
    Also, is it true that immediately following a traumatic event, people become very impressionable?
    Thanks for time and effort. This is a very important issue.

    • SoCalPrepper says:

      Totally agree. I just finished reading “One Second After” and the section that talked about “the Prozac nation coming off the drugs” really hit home.

      Heck, it really hit home for ME! I work a very stressful job, and because I have such a hard time shutting my brain off, I was on prescription sleeping pills for years. I was able to completely stop taking them, and I get by ok with just a melatonin supplement, and would be fine without that, too. Sleeping aids are probably the least of our worries…what about those on lithium, xanax, anti-psychotics / antidepressants? 30 days and pretty much everyone will be out, because our system doesn’t really let us “stockpile.”

      • Rider of Rohan says:

        The people who are now on drugs, both legal and illegal, will cause a huge crisis for a while, but it will fade over time. However, after what I’ve seen people do who are hooked on drugs, I’m sure it will be worse than I can imagine until these people either die or somehow end their addiction problems.

      • I bet if you talk to your doctor they might help you out. Of course narcotics and benzodiazepines would be doubtful but other meds possibly. Would have too tell them what it is for

        • i take saint john’s wort. got the seeds and will try to grow it this year, God willing.
          must not expose skin to much sunlight when taking st. john’s wort.
          for depression and manic-depressive syndrome [or whatever they call it these days].
          see michele’s and bam bam’s articles for other herbs.

        • Mike,
          This may be a great time to stock up because of all of the chaos being caused by the ACA. Tell your doc that you may be losing your healthcare or having it drastically shift, which in my case is true, and see if you can get additional scripts for non-narcotic medications, especially the generics. Take them to Wal-Mart or a local store or pharmacy that has inexpensive generics and simply tell them that your health care is in transition (not reall a lie) so they will simply fill the generic. Even the ACA may have some up side if you work it right.

  5. Hunker-Down says:

    I am my worst enemy. All those extra chores will make me a grouch. I overanalyze everything; lack of awareness such as weather reports, local and national news, neighborhood activities will drive me batty. There are monsters out there. I shoot at hallucinations.

    Or, I hope I wont.

  6. Rider of Rohan says:

    This is a great subject, and one I’ve given a little bit of thought. I remember talking to my grandma(a great woman, by the way) about mental health back in the day, and she said something that stuck with me. “We didn’t have time for any mental health issues back then, it was all we could do to survive. People were worn out after a day’s work. Mental health issues were only a problem for rich people who had time on their hands.”

    At first there will be terrible issues with mental health, but I believe just as she did that mental health issues will fade into the background as we struggle with day-to-day living. And chores. Nothing like work to take your mind off things. JMHO.

    • Very good point, Rider.

      • it may be stupid, but after the dust has settled maybe many will see a cessation of many mental health issues when they no longer have to commute, put up with a sociopathic boss, try to squeeze too little paycheck for too much expenses.

  7. This was a great article. Something that many will struggle with when the time comes.

  8. hvaczach says:

    The mind is a very complex thing, as much as we would like to think we can program ourselves how you mentally process these events remains to be seen. Being put in stressful situations (ie my time as a emt, and my current time as a volunteer fire fighter) help you learn how to process information in a chaotic scenario, but that is different. Than mental health. I hope we all keep it together as rebuilding will rely on the prepared and the vigilant, but it will be like something very few of us have ever experienced.

  9. Big Bear says:

    Great Article! Seems like just about every teacher and instructor I’ve ever had stressed the fact that a persons attitude is a prime factor contributing to success. Didn’t matter if the topic being taught was sports, business, or life skills ………. if your attitude is positive you will stand a better chance of winning. Plus, even if you don’t succeed (at first), a positive attitude will help you to cope.

  10. mom of three says:

    How funny you wrote this article, the hubby and I, were just discussing this very same thing yesterday. We no longer have cable, but we still have the Internet, to talk to family. I do lots of research but I use the internet as a tool. Those of us 40, and up should do better just because ( I would hope) we did not grow up with all the technology, as children. You have to unplug, and have time limits on technology, it will rule your life.

    As far as mental health,if people have issues now chances are they will get worse, or they will get out of it to survive. I agree with Rider of Rohan, mental problems are for those who have too much time on their hands. I’m from a generation, on both side where the families worked hard. No mental issues, in my family. My daughter’s friend has mental issue’s, why to much time on her hand, and mommy buying her everything she wants. Dear daughter, wants me to do the same but this mother says NO! I try to keep my kids, even they understand we can just put down a CC, or pull money, out of a rabbit hole. I just lost this pass Saturday, $120.00 we stopped to buy Girl Scout cookies, coming out of the store I believe I dropped my envelope after I paid the girls. I did not realize it was gone until 7PM, at church, when I was going to tithe. It made us cringe, but what
    can you do? I’m not upset it could have been more money gone but
    if the world goes crazy, I would rather have my health then money.
    Next time, I won’t use a envelope:(

    • Florida Gal says:

      I am afraid I will have to disagree with your very wide statement that mental issues are for people who have too much time on their hands. The implication that mental problems are as simple as having too much time on your hands and if you are a hard worker you should be fine is pretty narrow minded. There are plenty of hard working preppers of all ages who do suffer from chemical imbalances (aka mental issues) who will have very legitimate problems and concerns when the SHTF and can no longer access medication. It can’t be stockpiled to my knowledge. Please allow for a touch of grace you may not even be aware someone very close to you has these very concerns. For some the need for the medications are as needed as insulin for a diabetic and we don’t lump them into weak group of people who just need to Buck Up. Sorry for the rant but this is close to my heart.

      • Rider of Rohan says:

        Hi, Florida Gal, I guess I got this started when I quoted what my grandma told me many years ago. There are chemical imbalances that cause mental problems, I don’t think anyone here would say they don’t, and that’s not the issue I was referring to myself. In a grid down scenario, these folks would be hard-pressed to find treatment as stockpiling meds are almost impossible these days. I’m pretty sure there are herbal remedies that will help many, and I encourage anyone in the Wolfpack to enquire of Michele or Bam Bam for information. It could be life-saving.

        Back to my original statement, I honestly believe that some problems are from people having too much time on their hands, and that hard physical work will correct some of these issues. Not all, but these issues of bullying over the internet, frustrations with keeping up with the Jones’, taking on too much debt, trying to find meaning in life, etc., will take a back seat to survival. I may be entirely wrong on this subject, but I’m going by what my grandmother told me about her experience back in the late 1800s, early 1900s. I don’t know these things for sure, but it seems to me mental health issues have grown worse over the past 40 years. Again, I’m no expert, wasn’t giving out any expert advice, and had no intention of saying that work itself would correct a chemical imbalance, though it might be good therapy in certain cases. I know I had no intent to offend myself, nor do I think mom of three did, either. And I always feel sympathy for anyone who has any mental problem, no matter the cause.

        • Florida Gal says:

          I know that folks in the pack are encouragers and gracious people, NO offense was taken! I do agree that the energy we will need to spend on a daily basis will be totally beneficial for all of us. The herbal route will be advantageous and a big help when the meds run dry! Please don’t feel I was offended, just passionate about the stigma sometimes perceived by those who have not walked in those shoes. It’s probably safe to say we will all be a little “wacko” when this comes down. LOL Be blessed and keep sharing all your knowledge, we need it!

        • As someone who has been around people and worked with the mentally ill, I would have to agree with your statement;
          “Again, I’m no expert, wasn’t giving out any expert advice, and had no intention of saying that work itself would correct a chemical imbalance, though it might be good therapy in certain cases.”
          Keeping active and engaged is one important part of keeping balance in life and is very bennfical for those that do have legitimate mental illnesses. That along with some herbal medications will be very helpful to some. For others, Schizophrinic, psychopathic, etc., they will suffer more and others around them will be affected also.

      • Chicken little says:

        Fla Gal,
        I know where your coming from. I have a severly mentally ill adult son. He is a workaholic and was raised by two loving parents. All the discipline in the world would not have helped this child. He was born that way. No doubt in my mind about that. I was reading the story on yahoo news about Adam Lanza’s father talking about his son. That really hit home. I had to get a restraining order on my son because we fear for our lives. As I was reading the story I received a call from my brother telling me my son is in jail. I won’t lift a finger to help him at this point. If he is in jail he can’t hurt anyone else. Probably will hurt himself. We wait every day for the police to show up and tell us he killed himself. Lord knows we have tried every avenue. Tried getting legal custody of him as an adult. He is extremely intelligent. Probably a lot smarter than the 3 psychiatrists that said he wasn’t ill enough for us to have custody so we could get him the help that he refused to get.

        • Chicken little says:

          Fla Gal,
          Just wanted you to know some of us get it. Unless you lived it you can’t even imagine what its like. Also, the hardest working man I know, my husband of 30yrs, is bi-polar. He manages it well with meds and doing what is healthy for him. I ended up on medication from the constant trauma of my sons hospitalizations and problems. I too could not and still can not shut my brain off at night. For those on meds do what we do. As soon as prescription can be filled fill it. get 90 day supply if you can. I know we will have to slow taper when the shtf. We may not want to be around but we prep anyway. We prep for our daughter and her family and or perhaps for some poor family that seeks shelter in our home if we are no longer here.
          Also, I am not mad. Just trying to explain the unexplainable. Oh, I too am a very hard worker with no idle time

          • Chicken Little,

            I read your previous comment and was going to ask if your son was bipolar. This is the most tragic mental disease there is–it’s one of the few diseases that tell people they don’t have a problem, sort of like alcoholism.

            About getting sleep for yourself, you might want to check out valerian root, passion flower, and skull cap. Try each herb individually so you can see what effect it has on you. I don’t know your situation but many family members of bipolars suffer from PTSD.

            • Chicken little says:

              Bam Bam,

              Yes he is bipolar-1. Over 10 hospitalizations. He has suffered so much. He also has major anxiety.

              I actually have been diagnosed with PTSD. Just being near him or thinking of him and I start shaking, chest pains, migraines. So many things bring back the bad episodes with him. There was never a good day with him. Horrible to say about your own child you love. I lock the doors as soon as I come in or let the dog out. Think the whole family has the same problem.
              I was actually going to ask you about advice for something natural for sleep. Heck for anxiety and major depression too. Could you tell me more about the valerian root, passion flower and skull cap? I made your elderberry tincture. Saved my husband with that one. He started a new job with intensive training he could not miss. He came down with flu symptoms suddenly. Missed one day of work. I kept giving him the tincture and he made it to work the next day. Also, where is a good place to buy these things. The health store here is so expensive. Thanks Bam BAm

              • Chicken Little,
                I feel your pain and I am so sorry for your suffering and the suffering of your family.
                My husband and his mother are bipolar. I have an 18 year old ADHDer and I know that sometimes bipolar disorder presents as ADHD until young adulthood. You are living my worst fears and I will keep you on my prayer list.
                I suffer with some anxiety from the stress (my husband won’t take his meds).
                My son has some anger towards his dad as well (his dad earned it) and doesn’t have much respect for him, either. It is a hard life, my friend, but your sounds tougher.
                God bless you.

              • Chicken Little,

                Here’s the amazon link to valerian root.


                I tend to use amazon because I have amazon prime and it’s free 2-day shipping. I would start with the valerian root. You can make a tincture exactly as you did for elderberry. Watch out, though, because it stinks to high heven. I deal with a lot of young soldiers in my work who have PTSD. The valerian root almost always helps–though you will want to test it first. For some people it has the opposite effect–it makes them hyper. But that is rare. Give it a try–for $20 you can get a pound of organic valerian root and that will last a long time, as you only need to use a tablespoon of tincture.

        • Tactical G-Ma says:

          One would think that in such enlightened times there would be better ways to deal with mental illness. We went from locking people up in Bedlam to turning the streets into Bedlam. Chicken Little my heart breaks at your son’s situation. These days it’s more the rule than the exception.

        • Suburban Housewife says:

          Excellent discussion here. Unfortunately there is still such a stigma and lack of understanding toward mental illness. People still often look at having to take an anti-psychotic or anti-depressant as a crutch or a weakness of some kind. If only people could understand that often it’s not that different than a diabetic having to take insulin – hardly anybody “condemns” that.

          The real problem will arise I think when many of these people run out of drugs cold turkey – and don’t know that you have to titrate down – or ease yourself off the meds. Going off suddenly can create huge problems – possibly bigger than the original issue that the meds were prescribed for. That – to me anyway – is a really horrifying scenario.

          Chicken Little – you have my deepest sympathy – it is heartbreaking not to be able to help or do anything with someone you love. The liberal/progressives in all of their bleeding heart “compassion” for the rights of the mentally ill have really screwed things up and made it so difficult to help and or protect loved ones that need help.

          I had a brother. I know a little bit too.

      • mom of three says:

        Don’t feel bad about having your opinion, I’m not saying that people don’t have imbalance, I know many do snd struggle. I do know that there is a stigma, on many issues when it comes to mental issues. I have three kids all whom have ADHD, and many people, think we won’t control them even though we do are best. I was just commenting on River Of Rohan, I agree that the world has changed over the last 40 to
        50 years, why and how come we have so much depression,
        bi polar, ADHD, is it being caught earlier, or do we now have names to these brain issues ? I was just meaning we have been blessed on both sides of my family, we don’t have mental issues. Now I do think that drinking & drugs, are
        wreaking the next generation of kids. And started in the 60’s
        My father in law was a druggie, shooting up back in the 60’s
        his first son, is fine he did not do drugs at that time but was
        doing it in 1964, kept it up until the early 1980. My hubby was born 1965, so he has ADD, problems, he finally saw a councilor, to help him through issues almost 20 years ago.
        His son, from another mother has ADHD, our two kids have
        ADHD, the common link, same dad. I apologize, I was not
        trying to demean anyone or any issues.

        • Chicken little says:

          Mom of Three,
          Thanks. I know you were not trying to be hurtful. I know exactly what you and Rider of Rohan’s grandmother mean. We moved here 18 yrs ago next to the town I grew up in. It used to be average hardworking joe kinda town. Pig farmers they called Unfortunately I didn’t realize it turned into YUPPYVILLE. I am usually the 1st to say that person has too much time on their hands when I see people acting up or drama queens. Hard work does the soul good. I’ve always worked since age 10. Painting, shoveling stalls, picking berries as a kid. Anything for a buck so I would not have to ask my parents for a thing. I remember I would tell my mom I didn’t want to go on a field trip. Real reason was I didn’t want to ask for the 2 dollars knowing money was tight. It is awful what has become of kids today. Thank God my daughter is a worker that never asks for anything.
          Suburban Housewife, Like you I really fear the people that have to stop those medications cold turkey. I think these people will be very dangerous. As BC said, it can make you violent. I do feel bad that I have to take these meds for depression and anxiety but the alternative is worse. Even tapering will be very difficult. I have been real sick going off both meds even super slow. 5 different specialist could not figure out why my face was numb and couldn’t see right out of one eye. Friend said, It is withdrawl. Their friend had same issues. So took the pill and symptoms stopped. These drugs are scary. Thank you too Tacticle Mom for being so supportive. It is a great group of people here.

  11. Donna in MN says:

    Good study for all of us, Happy Camper.

    I doubt I will be that close to any group unless it is certain family members and friends who are like-minded with me than other people. I think that is the key to form a good group and work on issues as they arise cohesively. I like what you laid out to keep positive in mental preparedness.

    As far as having bad people in a group, I mean rapists, child molesters, murderers, and outright immoral people, I won’t have anything to do with them. There will be a lot of these people out there when SHTF.

  12. Study the Maslow pyramid, and see what is on the bottom . When these things ,basic things are not present it is easy to come unglued

    POW’s are often deprived basic needs food and sleep and they come unhinged.

    Know these things and prepare for them .

    • For people worried about how folks will respond to a collapse please read Victor Frankl, *Man’s Search for Meaning*.

  13. I have first hand experience with a drug called cymbalta. After the explosion at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It would wake me up at night sweating from seeing the explosion from every angle , over and over. If I heard a sound during the day like the train across the street hooking up and banging into other rail cars, it would send me into a trembling panic. Never in a million years would I have believed I could feel thus kind of fear and trepidation. My doctor prescribed cymbalta. I took it and within a few days I was back to my old self. 8 months went by and I ran across an article about drugs that alter brain chemistry. It was an interesting read and answered a lit of questions I had concerning what would happen to folks who suddenly couldn’t get their meds. Couldn’t happen to be though because the drug I was taking, wasn’t the type they were talking about,,,,,, right,,,,,,?i did a little research. Research that I should have done before taking the drug. I was on a drug that altered brain chemistry and not one you could get off without being slowly weaned off it. Me being the clear thinking individual that I am, I thought, hmmmmf, what do they know? I stopped taking it immediately and didn’t tell my wife because I knew she would be against it. It would take more space than available here to tell you all the symptoms of withdrawal I had. Excessive and unjustified anger being the most predominant one. I new I was experiencing withdrawal and I stayed in my shop until I knew I was past being potentially dangerous to anyone or myself. I made thus promise to myself. I will never again take a drug I haven’t researched and ask a buttload of questions about. I will never again take a mind altering drug,,,, inked pot becomes legal in Louisiana,,, then I would burn one every once in a blue moon.

    • Bctruck, I don’t think you’re the only person in the world who had this happen. Not much warning given. Plus doctors way too happy out there prescribing drugs for other than what they were intended by the pharmas.

    • LittleAnniePrepper says:

      BC, I had a similar experience with Cymbalta ( “excessive and unjustified anger”). Did I ever. I went off of it without telling anyone and I weaned myself off of it over an 8 month period. Those days were extremely hard on myself and my family (I didn’t have a shop to stay in). Now that I’m on the other side of it, I came to a similar conclusion about being “damn sure” about what I was going to get myself into before I EVER got on another pharmaceutical in my life. There are legitimate reasons for people to be on these medications. I feel, more often than not these days, most people who are on them should not be. Unfortunately, pharmaceuticals are too easy to come by and doctors these days have become pill pushers (to a large degree). That’s how most doctors are trained in medical school. Most doctors don’t even want to consider an herbal alternative. I’ve tried and the doctor looked at me like I had 2 heads and discouraged me. As I say to my husband, “What do the docs think people do before they started making pills?”

      And as far as mental illness. It’s always been with us. Schizophrenia, bipolar and multiple personalities are legitimate mental illnesses. Before modern times these people were either tended to by their family or “institutionalized.” When society breaks down these illnesses will have to be dealt with, one way or another. Given there will be no official facilities for these people to reside in, they will be let loose on the general population.

      Thank you for bringing this issue to light. It is an important topic to be given serious thought to before it happens. As MD has said in a previous post, prepping is more than bullets, band aids and beans.

    • Chicken little says:


      Been there done that with the stopping medication of that class of drugs. I didn’t know that could happen either when I started. Same thing, I started reading about them and said no thanks. I was on Paxil. PAXHELL! You couldn’t pay me enough money to go through that withdrawl again.

    • mom of three says:

      The hubby, had neck surgery almost three year’s ago they gave him a butt load of different medicines too. The one he took I think was lavoxal, he was angry man. He would snap without any warning. He threw his electric razor, at me one day because we disagreed on a issue, I side stepped and it came crashing in our bathroom, on the floor smashing into a bunch of bits. He just stood with his mouth open, and a few minutes later took the medicine, dumped it in the trash and that was it. To many of these prescribed medicine’s are very dangerous.

    • BcTruck; Sounds like you’ve had a run in with PTSD. Drugs are a bad answer to just about anything. Glad to hear you got clear of them. When your mental state is shaky it is really difficult to get it back on track. Keep good thoughts, believe in your higher power and in yourself. Again congrats on kicking the drug.

  14. Myself, I’d be fine. The dp, however, could drive me up the walls ’cause he just doesn’t get it. Doubt he’d figure out why his dinners have changed.

  15. Hi Happy Camper. You brought up a hugely important topic, with which I unfortunately had some up close experience.

    In 1975 I stayed with a step-sister and her family in a small agricultural village in the mountains of Lebanon, just as the Lebanese civil war was starting in earnest. It was an emotional disaster for everyone in the house.

    Along with my step-sister, her husband and her daughter, we also had his parents in the house. In the best of times, I suspect the relationship between my brother-in-law and his parents was probably spectacularly abusive, but the stress of sharing a house and orchard duties in a war zone, surrounded 24 hours a day with automatic weapons fire, and wondering if the fighting would come to the village, took the interpersonal strife to far and away the worst I have ever experienced. There were times people very nearly came to blows, and I was among them.

    When one of us is stressed, thing can be very bad, but when everyone in a household is undergoing the same stress, it multiplies.

    I didn’t have much outlet for my anger, which in part was from the stress of seeing my brother-in-law emotionally and physically abusing my 6 year old niece, and emotionally abusing my step-sister, and seeing her respond by diving into prescription painkillers, and seeing his father abusing him, calling him a fool and an idiot and a moron, not even in private but in front of his wife, mother, child, and me, all while we dealt with intermittent food shortages caused by the fighting disrupting the supply lines, and hearing distant AR fire and heavy machine gun fire, and mortar fire multiple times per minute, and diarrhea from polluted water, never knowing what was going to happen next.

    The best thing I could do was either retreat into my bedroom and write in my journal – a way to vent and process the experience- or go for a walk on the mountainside. The last few nights I was there (a little over two months) I was invited out to parties, where I had a chance to meet with others more or less my age, and participate, however slightly (most people spoke Arabic and French, both of mine were fairly primitive) in games and conversation while we listened to the fighting in Beirut.

    I wish I had known about, and been invited to, parties before that, but if anyone had suggested it to my brother-in-law, he discouraged them. He and his father were both emotionally abusive control freaks, which led to constant -multiple times per day- clashes.

    One of the reasons executives in high stress jobs like games like tennis and paddle ball is that the required concentration and physical exertion blows off stress. It lets them get into a relaxed state of mind. Shooting can do the same thing for me. While it is perhaps less physically demanding, the concentration required gets all other thoughts out of one’s mind.

    I’m inclined to think that even games like ping pong could help in a hi stress environment. Anything to blow off steam.

    I went into pretty strong withdrawal mode, both physical and emotional, but when things got bad enough, I would shout right back. The adults never got physically violent with each other, but we came close plenty of times.

    I wrote two longish pieces for Survivalist Blog about my experience. Anyone interested can find them here:

    My recollections:

    Excerpts from my journal:

    • Tactical G-Ma says:

      If any of you haven’t read Penrod’s article, it is well worth the read.

      • Absolute birds eye view into a world that I could imagine ours being, without rule of law. I put penrods experience up there with ferfals.

        • Thank you, both, Tactical G-Ma and Brad.

          Those were experiences well worth skipping, and mine were trivial compared to what the Lebanese went through for the next 15 years.

    • Rider of Rohan says:

      Wow, I had no idea you wrote those articles, Penrod. But I remember them very well. Both were a look into a dystopian future and what it takes to survive. I firmly believe what you saw in Lebanon is the likely scenario here, which is a hot and cold civil war. Low intensity for the most part, within periods of high intensity.

      • I can imagine it too well, Rider. Some of the cities during the crack wars got pretty awful in places. And gangland LA. No, I don’t want to live anywhere near there.

    • Happy Camper says:

      Wow Penrod, what you went through sounds terrible. Thanks for sharing the information. I will read your articles with great interest.
      Have you had any long term mental effects from this, if you don’t mind me asking ?
      HC x

      • “any long term mental effects from this”

        Hi, Happy Camper. Oh, yes. It took me years to understand that, though.

        Certainly there was a gut feeling of physical insecurity, which mostly contributed to prepping:-) It is hard to quantify how much more relaxed I feel with water, food, big first aid kits, GHBs in every vehicle, defensive equipment (which I knew how to use but didn’t have in Lebanon), but having that stuff satisfies a need which is both rational and emotional. I don’t have to try imagining what it is like to be defenseless, drinking polluted water, intermittently short of food, and out of stove fuel in a war zone. Plenty of people have had it several orders of magnitude worse, but I got enough of a taste when I was 22 to make an impression.

        It took me years to self-diagnose PTSD, tho. It should have been obvious, no brainer, but it really was years before I realized that the explosions around me were a result of all the explosions and shooting around us in Lebanon. These explosions were never anything I mistook for real explosions, it was just sort of a daydream kinda thing, but for years they went on, and for quite a while they were coming several times an hour.

        They were never real enough to be seem debilitating, so I didn’t really pay much attention to them, just thought “Hmmm…that’s kinda weird. BLAM!’ No, I did not even intellectualize enough to have the “Hmmm…that’s kinda weird” part. Just a little explosion.

        Roughly ten years after being in Lebanon I was going to Parsons School of Design in NYC, a very stressful time, and in one particular class I repeatedly over the semester saw a couple guys in grey suits walk through the door, pull pistols, and one of them would put a bullet in my right eyebrow. Only at Parsons, only in that class. Go figure.

        Again, there was nothing real about it, it was sort of an idle daydream kind of thing, but it happened several times.

        I don’t remember the last time I had an explosion, Maybe a year ago, maybe less. Hardly ever, nowadays, but it is going on 40 years since I was in that village. Now I know what is going on and can shake my head and smile. BLAM!

        The other thing I took from Lebanon was the sense of utter inadequacy in trying to help my six year old niece from being abused emotionally and physically by her new step-father. I tried talking about it with her mother, and couldn’t get through. She objected to him sometimes, but couldn’t stop it from happening.

        I wrote about it a lot in the journal I kept while in Lebanon, and sent it home to my father and step-mother, with a cover letter telling what I had witnessed, but they didn’t see it happening after everyone was back in the US, so dismissed it as an aberration because of the stress of Lebanon.

        In reality it was getting far worse. I didn’t see them for years after that (my-step sister and her daughter), but would get second hand reports about my niece’s deteriorating behavior.

        I remember reading my journal from time to time, and every time I did, I would have tears streaming down my face over my frustration and inadequacy there.

        Anyway, it finally came to a head and divorce followed. It was only about 10 years ago that I saw my niece again, and when she realized that I had kept a journal, asked me to send her a copy. I told her I could, but that there was some very tough passages about she and her step-father, and she looked me right in the eye and told me “There is NOTHING you can tell me about him that I don’t already know.”

        After she got it she emailed and said that it was the first time she realized that someone else saw what was going on and had tried to help her. Didn’t matter that I had failed. I had tried. That was enough for her, and finally, after 30 years I could read that journal without crying. Every time I read that journal before she emailed me, I cried. Every time since has been OK, just sad. So yeah, I guess that was a mental effect, too.

        • Penrod,

          I remember reading your articles a while back. They left quite an impression on me. Thank you for writing them.

          I have a colleague who is flying back home to Argentina next week. Although not as bad a Lebanon, it is bad and could get worse if the national guard turns on the protesters. When he gets back I’ll get the scoop and let you all know.

        • Chicken little says:

          I remember your account of what happened to you in Lebanon. Think that one stuck with all of us. Thank you for now sharing the mental health piece of what you went through and continue to go through. Maybe it will help us after shtf if we go through PTSD. I will say to myself, “this is what Penrod went through” and have a better understanding of those feelings.

          • Thanks, Chicken Little.

            In thinking back on that time, the stress of the fighting was a very big surrounding factor, but the immediate stress was the horrible, abusive relationship between my brother-in-law and his parents, his abuse of my niece and step-sister, and the constant criticism the in-laws leveled at my step-sister.

            All that happened because we were all sharing the house, with no way to really get away from each other. In normal times/place they never would have shared a house, and if they had, I would have left a lot sooner. As it was, I wanted to help my step-sister, but it seemed to me that the only thing she needed was to walk away from it and come home, which would have ended the new marriage right there. In retrospect that would have been the absolute ideal thing for her to have done, but that probably wasn’t so obvious to her at the time.

            From time to time over the years I have walked out of movies because they featured hostile relationships which reminded me at a gut level of the abuse I saw in that house. The only way I could deal with it in movies, and once or twice with bickering couples, was to physically remove myself. It brings back the anxiety and anger, and the sense of helplessness in wanting to get out, but also wanting to stay to help, however fruitlessly. Today I can walk away, so I do.

            That sense of being trapped, even if by only a sense of responsibility to do something which I really couldn’t do (help) was part of the stress.

            If I were in a similar situation today, I would work at persuading a sister and child to get out, whatever it did to a clearly miserable new marriage, but I am almost forty years older today, and I have already had the experience. At 22 I didn’t have the wisdom or the confidence to tell a much older person that I thought she needed to get out no matter the consequences. It wasn’t my place to interfere with her marriage, so all I could do was try to get her through it.

            It does bring up the issue of personal compatibility among any group in a high stress environment. If the people in a household are at each other’s throats, abusing each other in good times, what are their chances of getting through really tough times?

            My step-sister’s husband and in-laws appeared to have no interest whatsoever in getting along. They were physically and emotionally abusive people before they arrived in Lebanon from NY, and so far as I know they remained that way the rest of their lives.

            The stress of being in a country which was falling apart, with all the problems that created, compounded the stress which would have existed anyway.

            So, in wondering what a SHTF situation here might be like, I guess I think of being in a community -either a household or a larger community- with which I could not get along, but cannot leave. In our case, the act of leaving -going to the airport- was significantly more dangerous than staying put. Suppose people with meaningful power abuse that power, abuse you, abuse people you do care about, but you judge that leaving is still more dangerous than staying. Suppose you want to help protect people who are being abused, but you don’t have the power to do so. But you can’t leave, either. The stress goes crazy.

            • Chicken little says:

              What you went through was awful. You were trapped with some really disturbed people. REALLY TRAPPED! Not a comparison , but I was trapped too. my son would rage for hours. In your face and break things. My 2 kids were young and I couldn’t walk away. Please don’t beat yourself up for not being able to take your step sisters daughter out of the situation or make those crazy people stop. I couldn’t stop my sons raging. nobody could. I can’t count the amount of times I had to call the police so nobody would get hurt. His therapist said trying to rationalize with him was like trying to reason with a drunk. You just can’t get through to them. I finally realized that if I let this kill me it would not have made me a better mother. Have to go on. We have other loved ones that need us. Some things will always haunt us. I will keep you in my prayers. I have talked with my husband about future shtf situation. We both agree we cannot take him in if he shows up. He is to dangerous and I have a grandchild to protect. My daughter is smart enough to tell us that she will not have her baby anywhere near him. I couldn’t agree more. Just the thought of running into him scares me. I know I would shake and probably crack up. It has been 8 months since we took out the restraining order. Heck, my hands were trembling when I posted about his mental illness. My heart stops when I hear a noise and think he is breaking in. The memories can do a number on you. Hope your torment eases for you Penrod.

              • Thanks, Chicken little. I think it is pretty much over, just an occasional movie I don’t watch, or a little BANG! off in the distance, and those are pretty trivial to me.

    • I have read the journal twice. Very thoughful. Can only imagine.

      • Thank you, docj.

        • Tactical G-Ma says:

          Since you brought up PTSD….
          PTSD will be something that will be prevalent after a major event. We all felt some of it after 9/11.

          Barely out of my teens I became involved with a physically abusive man. I grew up very sheltered and so suffered in silence for several years. After escaping and starting a new life for many years, a word, a motion, anything could send right back there. When it happened I would flip out. I sought help. Surround myself with kind, gentle and loving people and have recovered. My father served in WWII and was shot in Korea. After 60 years he could be transported back to war in a heatbeat.
          My point is that no one will come through a major event unchanged.

          • “My point is that no one will come through a major event unchanged.”

            I think you are right, Tactical G-Ma. Traumatic events are exactly that: Traumatic. That can fade, but doesn’t go away entirely.

            • t g-ma mentioned 9/11. my mother is a war bride. when 9/11 happened she called to see if we were safe [in n.j. at the time] but she was practically a basket case herself. all the nightmares about the air raids and sleeping in bomb shelters came back. it was days before she was able to calm down. she was in arizona but we talked frequently during that time to assess the situation and to reassure each other. didn’t know then if there would be more moslem attacks or not.
              one of the ladies where my husband worked had also lived thru ww2 and had to be carried out of the office and receive medical attention on 9/11. this lasted for a long time.
              penrod had only a short exposure so think what long-term would do to you.
              may the good God preserve all of us from a ferfal situation or the situation written about by the serbian man. and these were ‘civilized’ countries!!
              thus is very scary.

            • “After 60 years he could be transported back to war in a heatbeat.”

              Five or six years ago my DW and I were watching a movie at home and just minutes into it, something triggered me and I just fell apart, with body wracking sobs for half an hour. I’ve blocked out that movie completely, no idea what it was or what the trigger was, but it was devastating. I’m just glad we were home and not in a theater.

              I’m glad you got past your abusive relationship. Those things can stay with you, but they can get better.

    • Thanks for reposting the link to your two articles. I really enjoyed the insight you have for us into what a civil war may look like. I don’t know if civil war will ever come to our country again but if it does I assume it will be slow and sporadic like the civil war in Lebanon.

  16. Excellent article. Mental health is my field. Roving gangs are particularly concerning to me. They will be searching for anything valuable such as Rx drugs and illegal substances.

    We would all do ourselves a favor to do a little mental preparation. If we have mental health issues, NOW is the time to address them in an effort towards wholeness and healing. If we have loved ones who suffer from mental illness, researching how to address their needs when shtf is essential. As for the entitlement group suffering from affluenza, we do not have control over them and how they choose to live. When shtf, they will be in for quite a shock, but most will hopefully adapt. Those who do not, may not survive. (like my friend who has caniptions if she does not have her daily latte)

  17. In the recent ice storm in SC, I was surprised and disappointed in myself. I was home for 6 days, had power for 5.5 of those days, and was an irritable, grouchy mess! I was glad to be able to help family and friends – or wanted to be – but I was annoyed that I was the only one prepared. I did not like feeling I needed to spend so much time to make others comfortable (not quite what I’d be doing in a SHTF scenario), but I was quite angry not to get to read even one day in what could have been an enjoyable break from work. I have some work to do on the inside.

  18. Happy Camper says:

    If I can share a few stories that is somewhat relevant to this topic:
    Over the last few years I’ve spend about 4 months (in separate times) in isolation in hospital, I was isolated because I had MRSA from rheumatoid arthritis complications.
    The longest stint I did in the same room, except for going to the OR was 58 days. I was allowed to have healthy people come in to see me (they had to ‘suit up’ for their protection)
    The mental challenge of being isolated far outweighed the physical challenges I was going through. Every emotion gets highlighted, my world was small and some things that were irrelevant became important. How I coped in this situation was by trying to remain productive, I was making cards for the gift shop in the hospital to sell. It also gave me purpose.

    I suffer from depression, I have taken meds for about 10 years. I have a serotonin imbalance in my brain. During one stint I the hospital, I became extremely depressed and suicidal, the thought patterns and perceptions are altered. I asked for a list of my meds being given, thankfully I did, as my serotonin dose was being given at 10mg rather than 100mg.
    I think mental health issues and being a difficult brat are worlds apart. In the past, people were ‘sent away’ and life span was shorter, so comparing today’s rates of mental health with 100 years ago is not comparing apples with apples.

    Mental health issues in the military is rampant ! Why ? Because the person is ‘de programmed’ and then re trained as a cloned military person. Then they are delivered to a place that is so far geographically and in lifestyle to what they are accustomed to and expected to perform.
    Then finally they are dropped back in society without any mental reprogramming or debriefing.

    Is it worse to have a healthy resilient body and a broken brain or
    A healthy resilient brain and a broken body ?

    • Tactical G-Ma says:

      Happy Camper,
      There may be some truth to what you say about mental health in the Military. My experience in the military was that the slightest hint of depression or nightmares or trauma or instability meant you immediately had your clearance pulled, was grounded from flight duty, definitely was not allowed near weapons of anykind. You instantly went on casual duty running a buffer in the barracks. You’re not fit for duty. The stigma and embarrassment is horrible.

    • Tactical G-Ma says:

      Also, wanted to say how sorry I am you went through an episode of MRSA.

      People, there are soooo many bad diseases, infections, and viruses out there that without modern diagnostics and medicine life expectancy would go back to being something like 40 years old. And that doesn’t include cancers that wouldn’t be detected until near the end.

    • Those gowns were destroyed as hazardous waste because of the MRSA. So, how logical was it to allow cards you handled to be sold to the public in the gift shop, maybe being given to other patients with compromised immune systems? Was that wise of the hospital to allow this?

  19. My favorite post appocalyptic movie is the Road Warrior with Mel Gibson. Yeah,pretty cheesy acting but the premise of the movie is what I like. The crazies will be the ones to survive and thrive BECAUSE they are willing to do what it takes to survive w/o remorse or compassion. I know a lot of folks who take prescription meds who if they dont take them, are not the people I know. I would NOT want to be around them post SHTF.

    • Hi KDK, You may have a good point there. The downside, which is not an argument against you being right, is that the Humungus and ‘friends’ were only destroyers.

      Once they had used or destroyed all the usable stuff in the rubble, they would die, because they could not produce, only rob and destroy. No gardening, no fuel production, no babies, no educating children.

      So, while they may be the last survivors standing, they will not survive past the time the pre-apocalypse goods are used up.

      • I totally agree. Nothing productive about them,just annihilators & scavengers. Of course,at the end,good wins out,sort of. At least enough to keep reproducing. Love that movie.

  20. Remember the period after 9-11? The fear, anxiety, & depression rates went very, very high. In NYC, they stayed very high for years. & I agree that what is still coming, will be much worse & last much longer. Life is going become much more difficult. Many, many more people will struggle w/ mental health problems, & there will likely be much less support. So we will encounter more “crazy” people in our daily lives, including some that we know & love.
    Thank you for this article.

  21. one problem that i see is one of your pack selling you out to get something they desperately need or think they want. if you had an iffy member to begin with who wasn’t dealing well with the changes in life style, they could easily be persuaded by others outside your group that they could get what they need or want if they just tell them where your food or weapons are.

    trying to deal and watch these people will be very time consuming. you think you know someone but until we actually go through this there is really no way to really know for sure how others will react.

  22. Mr. Bill says:

    This article really strikes home for me. Wife suffers from depression/anxiety and does not deal well with change, and son is high-functioning autistic (Asperger Syndrome) so does not deal easily with changes of routine either. How to deal with this? With the son, at least in short term emergencies, I try to make it a game, make things seem like an adventure. Longer term, I think he will do better than wife will but hard to be sure. Gives me a lot of sleepless nights thinking about it.

  23. Great article and very timely.

    My mental preparedness skills need some work. Growing up, I realized that I coped better alone or in very small groups (less than 5 people). When the SHTF, larger groups will be necessary for survival. But for me, having to cope long term in a large group presents serious challenges. In truth, I am unprepared to do so – the article is definitely food for thought.

  24. thegreyman says:

    I like this article and although unspoken, it calls upon the dichotomy of stress and distress and promotes leadership to be a skilled comodity in a SHTF situation. I’ve expanded upon SAFE to become SAFER with R being ‘Reassurance’ because in my imagination when I’m leading people through SHTF scenarios I’m constantly reassuring and edifying people, and managing those who are in denial. So many articles provide information on the what’s and wherefore’s of survival and don’t reconcile how people will feel about situations, and how that will affect them in the future. I think, personally, this is paramount to a SHTF situation. It may be because I have children. Yes, good article. Clear cut and well bolted together. There should be more articles about how people will deal with scenarios emotionally.

  25. Extremely good article. Mental acuity and balance is as important as having food to eat and water to drink. Thank you for addressing it.

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