A natural disaster such as hurricane Katrina devastated a region of the country that is still recovering even years later. With that much death and destruction, it’s hard not to imagine that psychological scarring wasn’t wide spread with adults as well as children. One can only imagine the horror and feeling of helplessness each of them must have been facing during that time. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been shown to be one of the most prominent issues that individuals seek treatment for following a natural disaster. PTSD symptoms manifests differently for everyone; however, it’s noted that those with previous mental health issues saw the most damaging effects. This same pattern can be seen in other cases of natural disasters as well (Bradel & Bell, 2014).
Depression, higher levels of anxiety and panic attacks, and substance abuse were also noted to be significantly higher after a natural disaster. An individual’s personal exposure to the situation also plays into how they respond to stressors after the fact. The stressors that families and individuals faced after Hurricane Katrina came in the form of having to leave their home, losing all their personal belongs, and moreover, some of them lost loved ones as well. People who had strong support systems such as through a church or local community, tended to do better coping with these stressors than those with little to no help (Bradel & Bell, 2014).
Pregnant women during this time undoubtedly experienced high levels of stress and anxiety. Prenatal influences on pregnancy can range anywhere from nutrition, anxiety and stress, if the mother smokes or uses illegal or legal drugs, not to mention the stress hormones that are released into the blood stream all affecting a baby’s development (Kirst-Ashman & Zastrow,2015). Pregnant women depending on their socioeconomic backgrounds, experience stress differently. It is noted that women with less prenatal care and in lower economic financial situations experience higher levels of stress. During pregnancy, these babies are at greater risk of morbidity and mortality rates. After birth, these same children who experienced in-utero stress display issues into childhood affecting their cognitive and motor skills. They also have more emotional and psychological issues than children who were not subject to in-utero stress, and have a harder time reaching childhood milestones (Torche,2018).
Families affected by natural disasters are now tasked with restarting their lives with little to nothing. The impact of such great devastation not only hurts those it struck, but also those who seek to protect people from the painful aftermath. Though many of us will never fully understand what they have been through, we can be there to support them, find adequate resources, and provide emotional and financial assistance to make this life transition less difficult and less traumatic.