Easing the Trauma After the Storm

No matter what type of natural disasters strike, whether earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornados, health care experts have found that they all leave significant, disabling, and lasting psychological scars behind. One month after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, for example, 17% of residents had symptoms of serious mental illness compared to 1% to 3% of the general population. Post-traumatic stress symptoms are normal after a disaster, but how long these symptoms last often depends on how soon communities and governments restore day-to-day functioning. Experts predict that the psychological “fallout” from Hurricane Sandy will be less than that experienced after Hurricane Katrina because of the faster government and community response.

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