Child Vulnerability and Mental Health Outcomes after Natural Disasters

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Major natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods often precipitate sudden emergencies, which have significant impact on all domains of life for affected populations. Children are a particularly vulnerable group to the effects of natural disasters, with unique physical, developmental, and psychosocial characteristics that place them at high risk for adverse outcomes (Murray, 2011). Some of the consequences for children after natural disasters include physical insecurity, poor living conditions and displacement, and disruption to community life. Numerous children may also be left orphaned after the loss of one or both parents. The aftermath of natural disasters place children at risk for adverse physical but
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Large numbers of children lost their parents or siblings due to the Indian Ocean tsunami, with estimates of at least 1000 children orphaned by the disaster (UNICEF THAILAND) Grief and bereavement was seen in many of these children, however, developmentally, children may struggle to express their negative emotions to the disaster. Instead, they may display depressed mood, frequent crying and irritability, as well as hyperactivity or difficulty with concentration and even violent behaviour (Pairojkul et al. 2010). These psychological disturbances may negatively affect child growth and development, and may last beyond one year after the disaster. McLaughlin et al. (2010) showed around 11% of children to have ongoing emotional disturbance even 3 years after the Katrina hurricane, with aggression, excess fear, withdrawal and signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) being displayed.

Risk factors suggested for intensified responses include preceding problems within the family unit or community structure and orphan status prior to the disaster. Indeed, the symptoms of PTSD in Sri Lankan children affected by both civil war and a natural disaster with the tsunami was as high as 40%, with the cumulative exposure to trauma and stress being a significant predictor for adverse mental health outcomes (Neuner et al. 2006).

Psychological approaches for children in disaster response
With the potential long lasting psychological effects after disasters, acute

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