Hurricane Katrina

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In the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, a person could not turn on a television set, tune in a radio station or read a newspaper or magazine without hearing about and seeing the images of displaced adults and children searching for the basic necessities of life. From thousands of people huddled in the flooded and hot Louisiana Superdome to families and groups of people sleeping on bridges and the sides of roads holding signs begging for food or water, our nation and the world saw the human damage causes by nature during a hurricane. But after a few weeks the images and stories became less and less and now it is difficult to find these same images stories in the news media. While the images and some of the suffering for the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region might have subsided, one study and wealth of psychological data show that for children, the effects of Hurricane Katrina and in fact all natural disasters go way beyond just the physical damage and that in some cases a natural disaster like Katrina or other hurricanes can cause developmental problems in children. One of the most common and damaging psychological disorders that leads to problems in child development following a natural disaster is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post traumatic stress disorder is defined as a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape (http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/facts/general/fs_what_is_ptsd.html). Most people suffer from some form of PTSD following one of the life-threatening events mentioned above, but for most people the effects go away in a short period of time and they return to a normal life. However, for the people who do not see the effects go away in a short period of time the damage could be substantial. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life (http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/facts/general/fs_what_is_ptsd.html). For children, these problems can lead to additional problems like lack of concentration in school, no desire to play with or socialize with their friends or other children and a sense that there is a problem with their family or home life. While immediate attention to the signs of PTSD in children following a life-threatening event can reduce the effects on child development, if a parent, teacher or other adult cannot see the signs of PTSD in children following something like a natural disaster and if the symptoms of PTSD continue to persist in children, then future problems well into adulthood are very likely to follow the individual. There are many events that can cause PTSD in children that could negatively affect development, but many of the studies and data deal specifically with the natural disaster of hurricanes. In the last twenty years the United States has suffered at the hands of many devastating hurricanes and studies following these hurricanes show that while the physical damage soon goes away the psychological damages continue for many years. In August 1992 Hurricane Andrew struck the south Florida area and specifically Dade County, where the city of Miami sits. In the months and years following Andrew, Dr. Alan M. Delamater and Dr. E. Brooks Applegate, both professors at the University of Miami School of Medicine, conducted a study to determine the links between child development, post-traumatic stress disorder and a natural disaster – in this case a hurricane. The study concluded that the hurricane causes post-traumatic stress disorder in a relatively large group of children and that "besides the distressing symptoms of PTSD for children...
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