Many NJ residents still traumatized by Superstorm Sandy
A new study finds almost three years after Superstorm Sandy slammed New Jersey, 27 percent of Garden State residents whose homes were damaged are still facing moderate to severe mental health issues as a result of the disaster.
Researchers at Rutgers University, New York University, Columbia University and Colorado State University conducted the study, which found ongoing repairs, insurance claim disputes, mold problems and financial challenges are causing mental health issues for residents young and old.
The study found children from hurricane damaged homes are five times more likely to feel sad or depressed, and eight times more like to have sleep disorders than children from homes not affected by the storm.
Patricia Findley, an associate professor in the Rutgers University School of Social Work, said it's surprising to find so many people are still struggling with a variety of issues almost three years after the Superstorm.
"People after two years are typically recovering, are resilient and bouncing back, but we're seeing particularly with children, more are at higher risk for mental health problems," Findley said. "We typically think children are resilient, are going to bounce back, but that's just not so, we have to pay attention to the children."
Findley said Sandy damage in some areas was so extensive that kids were forced to make new friends in new schools.
"They lost their peer support from their current neighborhoods and they were moved to different schools," she said. "That's very disruptive in a young child's life. Children aren't able to separate out this event happened, and it's over, when they see the repeated stories on the news they think it's happening over, and over, and over again."
According to Findley, another reason why children have been so affected is because they've seen adults go through repeated struggles with disaster relief, FEMA, grant programs, trying to get their homes fixed and many other things. When the adults don't have a sense of stability, it's mirrored in the behavior of the children.
To help kids deal with the aftermath of Sandy and move on, she suggested that parents try to talk to them "at a level they can understand, in a way that's age appropriate, but let them talk out their feelings, give them a chance to express what they're feeling."
The study also found 14 percent of people with homes damaged by Sandy had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"The initial response might not be PTSD but it might come back later if there's another storm that might evoke that kind of response," she said.