A Save the Children staffer plays with a child in a safe play space, set up to help children cope with the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael.

Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Children Following an Emergency

The mental health needs of children following an emergency are immense. Stress caused as a result of lost homes and lost communities can have a widespread, deep and enduring impact on children’s mental well being. 

As reports surface on the damage caused by Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 hurricane at the time it made landfall in Florida, Save the Children is actively working to protect vulnerable children and provide immediate support for families affected by the storm by distributing critical supplies. Our long-term response efforts will focus on providing much-needed emotional support to children as well.

Despite heightened vulnerability, children’s mental health needs are historically underrepresented in preparedness efforts in both public health and medical communities.[i]

Save the Children knows this is unacceptable.

Through the generous support of our donors, we are working to provide schools and communities with structured programs designed to support the emotional development of children following an emergency.

Here’s why it’s so important:

Children have unique needs that make them the most vulnerable in a disaster. From their small bodies being at greater risk of illness or harm during an emergency to their dependency on routine to help them make sense of their surroundings and feel comforted, children have the potential to suffer the most following an emergency.

The long-term negative impact of a disaster can be mitigated. With some basic training, parents, teachers and caregivers can help protect children from further harm following an emergency. Providing reassurance and validation of emotions while working to normalize routines and returning to learning can all work to reduce the mental harm caused to children.

However, many parents may not know how to address these needs. After Hurricane Katrina, key findings documented in American Medical Association’s Journal of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness found that while one-third of children were reported to have been diagnosed with at least one mental health problem, fewer than 50% of parents were able to access needed professional services. The major barriers that parents reported included not knowing where to go for help, lack of insurance coverage for treatment, no available providers and lack of transportation or child care for other children in the family. [ii] 

Children’s well-being depends, in large part, on the stability and well-being of their parents and caregivers. Children understand and process events based on messages they receive from those responsible for them. Helping parents and caregivers to process their experiences and develop resources for coping is the first step in increasing their ability to support children. By attending first to their own emotional needs, parents and caregivers can be more fully present and attentive to the needs of children.  

Children communicate stress differently. There is no one way in which children express worries and fears. Each one may communicate upset feelings in different ways. It’s important to recognize both the physical symptoms and behavioral changes that can mask trauma. Sleep disorders, irritability and acting out area also ways in which children may communicate stress.

A donation to Save the Children’s Hurricane Michael Children’s Relief Fund will help support the urgent needs of children and families. Please donate now.

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Florida and across the United States, please visit: savethechildren.org/USA.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

 

 

[i] A Child’s Health Is the Public’s Health: Progress and Gaps in Addressing Pediatric Needs in Public Health Emergencies 

[ii] Abramson, D., Park, YS., Stehling-Ariza, T., and Redlener, I. “Children as Bellwethers of Recovery: Dysfunctional Systems and the Effects of Parents, Households, and Neighborhoods on Serious Emotional Disturbance in Children After Hurricane Katrina.” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. 4. (2010). pp. S17-S27.

“I have a friend from faraway”

Edwin Antonio

9-year-old Sponsored Child

Save the Children Mexico

October 15, 2018

Hello everyone! My name is Edwin Antonio and I am 9 years old. I live in a beautiful and colorful little town called Chemax in Yucatan, Mexico. I like it because we have nice green areas where I can play with my friends. In the mornings, I go to elementary school. I am studying in fourth grade, and I am very excited, as soon I will be in fifth grade – just like a big boy!

At school, we learn how to read using fun games and songs.

My school is also very pretty, green like my favorite color. I love it because we have a courtyard where my classmates and I play every day after class, and sometimes we ride our bikes there. As it is very sunny and hot over here, we drink lots of water from the filter we got thanks to our friends from Save the Children. Clean and fresh water that we can enjoy at any moment – this is something we did not have before. We had water at the school, but without the filter, we drank directly from the tap, which had unclean water and made us sick.

I like it when our friends from Save the Children come to visit us and we do nice activities that helps us to learn and have fun at the same time. For example, we learn how to read and sing songs from our books, and play games that help us learn how to talk about our emotions using puppets and other toys. We always have a great time when they come and we look forward to their next visit. My teacher says they have earned our

There are lots of kids like me that have friends that send them letters. We love it!

whole school’s love and appreciation.

There are days when I feel even happier because I get letters from my friend from far away. My sponsor is a very good person. In her last letter, she told me that she is a lawyer and she has a kitten named Berry. I like her so much so I sent her a nice letter made all by myself with a lot of colors and a drawing, I’m sure she loves it.

Having a friend like her is incredible because, even though I don’t know her in person, I know she thinks of me and always helps me in the ways she can. I am sure she is also happy to have me as her friend.

Many kids like me have friends that send them letters at our school. We are very happy to know we can count on great and kind people like my sponsor and Save the Children.

Did you know you could communicate with your sponsored child by email? This not only helps us save on postage and get even more money to our programs that benefit children, but also will help you get a faster reply from your sponsored child! Consider sending an email today by visiting your online account, at Sponsor.SavetheChildren.org/MyAccount.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.