Immediate Needs Following a Disaster

Children and the elderly are the two groups most at risk following a natural disaster as they experience more trauma than other age groups. Children in particular internalize the fear from a natural disaster very deeply, which can result in nightmares, flashbacks and trouble behaving in school. Symptoms such as these should be closely monitored as they can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and PTSD.

The majority of children will bounce back with a year to two years following a natural disaster, but it is important for them to receive help in the short term, and any child with a pre-existing mental condition needs professional help immediately, whether it be access to medication or getting back into a daily routine.

Studies have shown that children who do not receive adequate professional help after a natural disaster and develop PTSD, tend to have more problems going into adulthood and often struggle with continuing education and finding an occupation following termination of studies.

In the case of young children, it can be difficult to judge what they are feeling, particularly if verbal development has not yet fully occurred. In these situations, it is important for parents to help their children back into a routine as quickly as possible. Parents also need to recognize that their children’s experience and feelings during the natural disaster may differ from their own.

Children need to be taught coping skills in the aftermath of a natural disaster. They need to be equipped with ways of dealing with the emotional effects and the changes that have resulted from the natural disaster.