Hurricane Season Returns, Old Scars Remain
> 6/13/2006 2:26:20 PM

Alberto has proven to be a storm of little consequence. Some nasty wind and rain for sure, but not the cataclysm for which last season has prepared us. Yet, as a story in today's Washington Post reminds us, as the new hurricane season ramps up, many of the problems of Katrina, and specifically the mental health problems, have yet to be completely dealt with.

At the center of the WaPo's story is a quote from Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness and president of the Children's Health Fund, an advocacy group and care provider for medically underserved children. Comparing the fallout from Katrina to other PTSD triggering disasters like Oklahoma City and 9/11, he said: "The children who were affected psychologically [by those tragedies] could go to a place of normalcy. The difference here is not only the scope of devastation but the prolonged dislocation with an uncertain timeline. The trauma has not yet ended."

Indeed, for many of the children who suffered through Katrina the traumatic stress is still a part of their everyday lives. In the story we meet children who use drawing to express what their words have been unable to. As our earlier vlog post with noted clinical psychiatrist and PTSD expert Claude Chemtob explained, children are often effected by trauma in ways that are light-years different from adults and caring for them can create many new roadblocks.

Unfortunately, time is not on the side of treatment at this point as a new season will bring not only new, frightening storms, but increased media coverage, which can often trigger anxieties in children still dealing with their experiences. Only diligence, and a community effort, will be enough to turn the tide of PTSD that has swept through New Orleans and surrounding areas. The physical defenses against the elements have received billions in federal funding for rebuilding efforts. If we could commit only one billion to the mental health and defenses of the youth and their families in the paths of hurricanes much good would come of it.

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