Psychological impact of disasters on children

Zain Ul Abideen

A disaster is the tragedy of a natural or human made hazard (a hazard is a situation which poses a level of threat to life, health property or environment) that negatively affects society or environment. But, disasters in whatever intensity took place, affected psychologically nearly each and every person of the country and children due to their vulnerability were and yet until now are worst victims of these disasters. Children are mostly susceptible to disaster suffering, and it is noticeable in many complex psychological and behavioral symptoms. On the other hand, sometimes the post-disaster psychological effects in children are not recognized. Sometimes parents, teachers and other concerned persons underestimate not only the intensity but the extent of the stress reactions in children. As children are expected to have different level of emotional maturity, very limited coping strategies based on their age, that’s why psychological responses in children are different from those in adults. Methods of intervention for children following disasters reasonably differ from adults.

Post natural disasters, responses in children change and may remain high for a prolonged period, and put in danger the welfare of the children in the affected area. Factors like nature of disaster, time or duration of the disaster, cultural issues that form the meaning of the trauma, help and relief activities given to them are also important to consider. Age may be the most important factor that intervene the occurrence of disorder after disaster. Some of the effects after disaster include psychiatric morbidities among children include stress, adjustment related disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, and phobias. Natural disasters e.g. earthquakes, hurricanes, flood etc. indication of anxiety and depression is most common. Children in preschool present with features of separation, anxiety, fears of monsters or animals. Some children may be occupied with some special terms or signs that may or may not have link to the event occurred.

The risks enhance if children already have been undergoing from psychological or behavioral dilemmas. Risk factors may be female gender, degree of exposure, loss of family members, separation anxiety, trauma and related parental distress. In some cases, children may not tale their psychological responses to the suffering unless they are particularly asked about aspects of trauma. Sometimes, limited cognitive power and expressing of children may make deducing their feelings complex. Other than this, children may not be given opportunities to talk related to the event occurred, citing cognitive immaturity as the ground.

Parents and teachers sometimes ignore to ask about the symptoms in children. Therefore, it is always useful and required to directly asking the child about the symptoms. Research has confirmed that children not only want to talk about their occurrence, but also welcome each and every opportunity to talk about this.

Workers that are involved in rescue and other relief activities should be trained well in advance for emotional first aid or treatment, communication skills in dealing with shocked children due to disaster. They should not abuse and neglect children in these situations. Mental health support should be mix together with other disaster relief work. It is also supportive to train health workers belonging to affected areas about the aspects related to after disaster impacts. Helping according to the cultural norms is an important issue for coordinating and counseling after post-disaster situations, one of the easy ways to cope up this issue is to take help by local volunteers or inhabitants.

Local persons related to health care profession, and teachers may be good source in managing the psychological impact of disasters. It is essential that the mental health difficulties of the children are documented as soon as possible and helpful measures are also taken at home, and school as well. But, family members can play a great role in this regard, because children spend a lot of time with them. Parents, family and relatives also play key role in the remedial progression. Relatives and families may go for adopting orphaned children. Some health related programs conducted in schools for mental health of children affected by disaster, reduce disturbance-related psychopathology, and emphasize normalization process. Sometimes children may require to be removed from a traumatic environment to other relaxed and encouraging environment for quicker coping and healing. Broader social and economic recovery of the country also plays a key role in this regard.

Early psychological treatment is recommended following disasters especially when the disaster damage to property, economic crisis, violence, injuries, risk or even loss of life as well. The subject is principally critical in developing countries as compared to developed countries. Lot of children wished to express how they and their other family members think about. Hence, it becomes essential to help children to express them their feelings and thoughts. Counseling after disasters should be provided for long periods, with different and shifting patterns and highlighting changing needs of different age groups. Helpful interventions e.g. promoting a sense of safety, security, efficacy, and networking are also useful.

Health care workers can provide valuable psychosocial help and assisting in rehabilitation process. Research suggests that there are a lot of psychosocial concerns affecting children following disaster. The means for support and help should be if possible community based, and for extended time period which involves related organizations like health, education, local or even national governments as well, for a curing process to take affect immediately. Educational and some clinical interventions can also offer better outcomes than any approach alone.

Zain Ul Abideen MS, Leading to PhD Scholar, SZABIST, Islamabad Campus.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤



Health topic page on womens health Womens health our team of physicians Womens health breast cancer lumps heart disease Womens health information covers breast Cancer heart pregnancy womens cosmetic concerns Sexual health and mature women related conditions Facts on womens health female anatomy Womens general health and wellness The female reproductive system female hormones Diseases more common in women The mature woman post menopause Womens health dedicated to the best healthcare
buy viagra online