FREE counselling is being offered for people hit by extreme flooding as Storm Christoph hits the UK.

The insurance company Zurich UK is offering free counselling to customers affected by flooding as it warns about the ‘devastating’ impact extreme weather can have on mental health.

The company said with the pandemic and the effects of Storm Christoph, communities are likely to be hit with a ‘double disaster’.

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David Nichols, Zurich UK’s chief claims officer said: David Nichols, Zurich UK’s Chief Claims Officer, said: “The physical impact of extreme weather is impossible to ignore.

"But there is reason to be concerned about another, ‘hidden’ consequence of the UK’s increasingly destructive weather – the harm it is doing to people’s mental health.

“For some victims, the psychological toll of flooding is just as devastating as the disaster itself – with the effects last long after the waters recede."

Five million people in England are currently at risk of flooding.

Mr Nichols said with climate change intensifying the severity of extreme weather a 'mental health crisis is looming'.

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According to academics at the University of York and the National Centre for Social Research, people whose homes are damaged by storms or flooding are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Taking into account other factors known to impact mental wellbeing – such as social disadvantage, debt and poor physical health - people hit by storm and flood damage were 50 per cent more likely to experience poorer mental health.