Helping Children After Disaster Strikes ~Anna Varela

Posted on January 12, 2015 By

During what I euphemistically refer to as “The Troubles”, 8-29-05 when the federal levees failed after Hurricane Katrina and totally devastated New Orleans, the thing that creeped me out the most then and stays with me to this day is seeing children trying to come to grips with that horrible catastrophe as their parents flayed about in the flooded city.  ~Bruce Biles

After a disaster strikes, roughly 30 percent of children will suffer symptoms of distress, such as experiencing flashbacks or taking pains to avoid places that remind a child of the emotionally painful experience. Researchers can’t predict which children are likely to suffer serious, ongoing problems and which will be fine.

Dr. Betty Lai explores these questions, applying advanced statistical methods to better understand how children respond after natural disasters, war and other traumatic events such as bullying at school and maltreatment at home.

Close up photo of wreckage from Hurricane Ike in Galveston.

close-up of Hurricane Ike damage courtesy of

“When I was in graduate school, hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast of Texas and it really decimated Galveston, and that’s a place that we had gone to every summer when I was a kid,” said Lai, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health. “It really flooded the downtown and all the schools shut down. So for me that hit home and I started to get interested in a lot of this disaster work and how children respond to disasters.” Read more.

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