On September 20th, 2017, Hurricane María devastated the island of Puerto Rico. A George Washington University study following the hurricane found that the death toll reached almost 3,000 in studies following the hurricane. The catastrophe and its aftermath also had profound effects on the psychology of Puerto Rico’s youth.
New research by scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina surveyed students in the public school system five to nine months after the hurricane. Students indicated being subjected to many stressors during the hurricane including witnessing their homes being damaged, being forced to evacuate, and having a family member, friend, or neighbor experience injury or die. Additionally, children also reported stressors associated with the aftermath of the storm, including water and food shortages and friends or family leaving the island. The study found that there was a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms in Puerto Rican students, possibly fueled by the stressors brought on by the hurricane.
Clearly, natural disasters can have traumatic effects on mental health, particularly in children. More studies should delve into how Hurricane María has affected the prevalence of mood disorders and different psychological conditions to uncover how this natural disaster may have altered the psyche of an entire generation.