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Hurricane Katrina's Effects On Residents' Mental Health

Armen Hareyan's picture

USA Today on Thursday published four articles on issuesrelated to the mental health of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.Summaries appear below.

  • "Katrina Victims Struggle Mentally":Mental illnesses are affecting double the number of Gulf Coastresidents in the wake of the hurricane compared with rates beforeKatrina, and the numbers are continuing to rise, USA Today reports. A government-funded study led by Harvard Medical School's Ronald Kessler released Wednesday to USA Todayfound 14% of Gulf Coast residents have symptoms of severe mentalillness, while 20% have symptoms of mild to moderate mental illness. Inaddition, post-traumatic stress disorder -- which typically dissipatesin a year for most people who have experienced a disaster -- is on therise. This year, 21% of Gulf Coast residents report PTSD symptoms,compared with 16% last year (Elias [1], USA Today, 8/16).
  • "Trauma Shapes Katrina's Kids":Nearly two years after the hurricane, "the toll the storm and slowrecovery are taking on Gulf Coast children will be among the topicscovered at the American Psychological Association meeting," USA Today reports. There are no complete figures on the scope of children's mental health problems, according to USA Today.Last fall, a study found that two in five New Orleans students ingrades four through 12 had symptoms of PTSD or depression, and 2007data being analyzed show the same trends, according to Howard Osofsky,chair of the psychiatry department at Louisiana State University HealthSciences Center (Elias [2], USA Today, 8/16).
  • "Never Too Young To Help Out":Recovery efforts that are age-appropriate can help children recoverfrom disasters by warding off feelings of hopelessness or helplessness,according to Robert Pynoos, co-director of the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. USA Todayprofiles the efforts of 13-year-old Jack McShane, a New Orleansresident who has been tending a large park near his family's home(Elias [3], USA Today, 8/16).
  • "Gulf Coast Kids of Every Class Affected by Katrina":Children who survived Hurricane Katrina are dealing with the aftermath,regardless of their socioeconomic class, according to Corey Hebert, aNew Orleans pediatrician. Hebert said, "The difference is, the poorones ended up stranded on a bridge with no food or water for threedays, while the better-off ones saw it on TV. Their houses may havebeen destroyed, but they weren't here to see it." As middle-class andmore affluent children return to find their homes damaged or theirfriends and relatives gone, they can experience anxiety or depression,according to Hebert (Elias [4], USA Today, 8/16).

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