Five health threats and epidemics after natural disasters

Mental Health Conditions

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleanians experienced a lot of hardships. More than $100 billion worth of damage was done to homes and businesses, thousands were displaced, and an estimated 1,836 people died. While the immediate physical harm from the event was horrifying, the impact on mental health took longer to understand.

The immense stress and trauma experienced by survivors of a natural disaster can have long-term effects. Conditions like chronic stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder can be challenging to treat in the wake of a disaster—if, indeed, they are even diagnosed at all—due to strains on the healthcare system and financial hardships. When these conditions go untreated, they can have a significant impact on health and well-being.

This is true not just for those who lived through the tragedy firsthand, but also for caregivers who assist in the recovery. Relief workers experience burnout, trauma, and other types of psychological distress at a higher rate than the general population.

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