Study Highlights Long Recovery for Disaster Survivors

In difficult times, conventional wisdom assures us that we will endure and perhaps even  improve– becoming wiser, or more spiritual, or more grounded – from the hardships faced. The adage, that which does not kill us will make us stronger,  is  almost considered fact, and indeed there is some empiric evidence behind that phrase.  However, are some traumas simply too much to bear, having a long-term, even lasting, impact upon survivors and their families?

A study of Hurricane Katrina survivors, specifically low-income mothers, found that they continued to experience mental health problems several years post-hurricane.  Four years after the natural disaster one-third of the sample were still suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms and 30 percent experiencing  psychological distress, both above pre-storm levels. The researchers found that experiencing stressors such as lack of edible food or clean water, home damage and injury due to Hurricane Katrina corresponded with risk of long term post-traumatic stress.

Although the authors warn that the study is not generalizable to the larger population, this data provides valuable insight into the true duration of the human impact of a natural disaster the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina.



Catastrophe Preparedness and Response

If you play a role in crisis response, risk management or disaster planning and preparedness at your agency or organization, you may be interested in the video and audio content of the recent RAND Corporation briefing Partners in Preparedness: How Governments Can Leverage the Strengths of NGOs in Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery (available at the RAND website).

Speakers Joi Acosta, Ann Williamson and Thad Allen discuss the roles of non-government organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits in increasing the capacity of communities to better prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, challenges to coordination and resource allocation, policy recommendations and suggestions for implementation strategies. Their message is clear – a well-defined, coordinated effort between the government and the private sector to address public needs at the various stages of catastrophe response and recovery is critical.

For this blogger, the multiple crises in Japan related to the recent 9.0 earthquake underscore the relevance of this topic area.