One of the most crippling hurricanes to hit the U.S. struck the Gulf coast on August 29, 2005. “In an analysis of 971 fatalities and 15 additional deaths of storm evacuees, 40% of deaths were caused by drowning. 25% were caused by injury and trauma (CNN) and “more than one million people in the Gulf region were displaced by the storm” (CNN). The effects of this hurricane lead to many deaths and left thousands of people homeless. The combination of large surge and waves lead to major damages to the cities schools, roads and buildings. When Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast, children and adults of varying ages were affected. The results came with emotional/social, familial and environmental effects on childhood development.
Hurricane Katrina impacted young children emotionally and socially. In a report by The New York Times Lacey Lawrence who was thirteen at the time of the hurricane reveals “I was getting into fights; real fights, violent ones. That was something I never did before, ever. But you lose everything and don’t know hot to deal with it – no one prepares you for that” ( The New York Times). Younger children demonstrated regressed, clingy, and anxious behavior in reports from the trauma team. In comparison older children worried about themselves, their futures, their friends, parents, and other family members. “In the fall and early spring of 2006, as children returned to the new orleans metropolitan area, some described being called “trailer trash” when they enrolled in other schools and were teased about not having a permanent address, home, or adequate clothes” (SRCD). Teasing and bullying occured in schools were children who lived through the hurricane attended. They were made fun of things they had no control over which most likely added to the stress they were already feeling. Coming from a situation where housing and clothing was provided steady and then to not know where you were going to sleep at night or not having enough money to buy new clothes can be very crippling for a child.
Hurricane katrina’s aftermath impacted the environmental welfare of children. “For both children who left New Orleans and those who did not, was living in overcrowded homes and trailers, moving frequently, being seperated from relatives and friends (and often not knowing where they were)” (SRCD). With no financial support there was no stability which means families had to move back and forth either from homeless shelters or hotels if they could afford it. Many parents were out of jobs so that eliminated the ability to feed themselves or their families. Poor diets and inadequate shelter can have adverse effects on a child’s mentally and emotionally.
The effects on mental health for children during the time of Katrina were very transparent. Things like depression, anxiety and psychiatric problems were seen in young children. “Growing evidence suggests that Hurricane Katrina had both immediate and lasting adverse mental health consequences . Families living in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – subsidized hotels or trailers suffered from high rates of disability among caregivers of children, due to depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems” (US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health). This suggests that the stress of the hurricane lead up to high rates of depression, anxiety etc when living in hotels and trailers.
Even through all of the turmoil some children showed resilience to their circumstances. Not all children and youth experience distress, symptoms and worries. Despite the difficulties most children and adolescents cope successfully and demonstrate adaptive skills following traumatic exposure. “The children’s strengths, the researchers found, were largely the result of rebuilt schools (St. Bernard Parish reopened within 2-1/2 months of the hurricane) and supportive relationships (including the classmates students interacted with when they returned to school)” (The Global Source for Science News). This suggests that healthy and strong relationships from friends and infrastructure being rebuilt gave these children the courage they needed to keep going.
In conclusion, Hurricane Katrina left many children mentally, socially and environmentally vulnerable. All of which lead to increase amount of homelessness and poverty. As a result depression, anxiety and mental disorders were seen increasingly in adolescents. Although the hurricane had very negative effects on children it also help these children build stronger resilience. By being exposed to trauma at a young age these children were able to build skills that will follow them to adulthood.