Hurricane Maria Has Left Behind Mental Health Concerns For Children
Hurricane Maria which roared through Orocovis six weeks ago, didn’t only leave behind immense devastation in its deadly path through Puerto Rico, but also caused major psychological damage on the children in the region. The children living in the mountain hamlet witnessed roofs blowing off, cold dinners for weeks and watching loved ones pass away in their living rooms.
Local leaders from Orocovis now fear that the storm may have left long-lasting psychological effects on children which will be difficult to erase. Most of the children are too young to understand the impact of the storm according to Orocovis Mayor Jesus Colon Berlingeri who also mentioned the children aren’t aware why their house doesn’t have water, power and are wondering why the roof is also missing. The common comment among most people is that “the children need help.”
Children’s Mental Helath, A Growing Concern Among Puerto Ricans
The mental health of children has become a growing concern for Puerto Rican officials along with those managing the disaster. Hurricane Maria made a landfall on September 20 and was one of the most devastating storms to hit the island in seven decades. 50 people succumbed to the hurricane while thousands were displaced and the lives of 3.4 million Puerto Ricans were upended.
Irwin Redlener, the chief of the National Center for disaster preparedness at Columbia’s University Mailman School Of Public Health and also The President Of the Children’s Health Fund, has confirmed that children that experience destructive storms are perhaps the most vulnerable to all kinds of mental health effects over the long-term.
A study which was conducted by Redlener after Hurricane Katrina, revealed information that about one-third of the children during the disaster is reported to have at least a single problem related to mental health. However, fewer than 50% of their parents were in a position to access professional services. Post-Katrina children were also 4 1/2 times likely to have serious disturbances of the emotional kind compared to the children not affected by the disaster.
It is believed that hurricane Maria may bring along more issues because the entire island of Puerto Rico was affected leaving senior members of the family searching for basic requirements such as food and water and overlooking the needs of the children. Schools in Puerto Rico have not opened ever since the hurricane struck six weeks ago. Some schools are expected to open within a week and perhaps bring some normalcy to the lives of the youngsters.
Mental Health Services In the Impacted Areas, An Essential Requirement
Federal-aid has been slow to reach in Orocovis which is a remote mountain town and local educators have accepted an offer from the Save the Children foundation based in Connecticut to launch a temporary child care facility in a Catholic school which is shuttered. Around 154 children between the ages of 4 to 15 enrolled into the facility to spend the morning hours until noon in the company of teachers, social workers and other students.
However, more needs to be done despite the US Department Of Health And Human Services and local groups like the Ponce Sciences University, are constantly trying to provide mental health services of certain types to the impacted areas. It is believed there is going to be a mismatch between the resources available and the actual requirements. There is a need for people to go in to help families manage and deal with the massive issue which affected Puerto Rico during the past six weeks.
Initially, the students were keeping their feelings to themselves and were withdrawn giving a feeling they had something in their minds which they were not able to disclose. Then, they began to share their experiences only after programs were designed to verbalize their thoughts. The children were aware that most of them were experiencing a similar problem but were courageous enough to believe the world had not ended.
Mental Health Concerns Of the Children Need To Be Addressed
Americans are well aware of the problems encountered by people that have faced the trauma of some kind at any part during their lives. Veterans are dealing with the problem of PTSD years after returning from the battlefield and are obtaining help from the services which are made available to them. The impact caused by hurricane Maria on the people of Puerto Rico, especially on the children, is a problem which needs to be addressed by the authorities asap.
Even though the effects of the trauma may not be visible right away, one cannot discount the fact that the children are not likely to forget their experiences. The governing authorities will have to consider the realities and prepare themselves to address all the problems left behind by hurricane Maria including the mental health issues of children.
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