The prolonged displacement of hundreds of thousands of families as a result of Hurricane Katrina has created widespread mental health problems among children living in the region, a new report from the Children's Health Fund and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health finds.
An expansion of a recent NCDF study that followed more than a thousand families affected by the disaster, the report, Legacy of Katrina: The Impact of a Flawed Recovery on Vulnerable Children of the Gulf Coast (17 pages, PDF), found that housing and community instability and the uncertainty of recovery have undermined family resilience and the emotional health of children in the region. More than a third of the children in displaced families have been clinically diagnosed with at least one mental health problem post-Katrina, with behavioral and conduct disorders being the most common. At the same time, less than half the parents seeking mental health counseling for their children have been able to access professional services.
The report also found that some 45 percent of parents reported that their children are experiencing emotional or psychological problems which they had not experienced prior to Katrina; that children post-Katrina are 4.5 times more likely to suffer emotional issues, hyperactivity, poor conduct, and/or problems relating to their peers than they were pre-Katrina; and that nearly half of those who were displaced continue to live in unstable conditions, with some 60 percent reporting that their situation is unstable or worse than it was pre-Katrina.
"This study points to a major crisis facing the children of the post-Katrina Gulf Region," said Irwin Redlener, director of NCDP and president of the Children's Health Fund. "From the perspective of the Gulf's most vulnerable children and families, the recovery from Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans has been a dismal failure."