As the nation recognizes the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—one of the most devastating and expensive natural disasters in our history—individuals, families, and communities that were directly affected continue to recover.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters can lead to emotional distress in those who experience them. Survivors (including children and teens), loved ones of victims, and first responders are all at risk, and disaster anniversaries can re-trigger some of that emotional distress.
Overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms are common responses to disasters and traumatic events (before, during, and after the event), although reactions can vary from person to person. Most people who experience disasters are able to “bounce back” in a short period of time, but others may need additional support in order to cope and move forward on the path of recovery.
Anniversaries of disasters may also be hard for survivors, who may experience some of the same reactions they did around the time of the disaster itself. For those who experience intense reactions, preparing ahead of time and knowing what to expect may be helpful. Common reactions to disaster anniversaries include recurrent memories, dreams, thoughts, and emotions; grief and sadness; frustration, anger, and guilt; avoidance; remembrance; and reflection. To support themselves through anniversary reactions, survivors may want to talk about their reactions with others, take care of themselves by getting enough sleep and exercise and eating healthy food; develop and stick with routines; limit viewing of news related to the anniversary; use coping strategies that have worked for them in the past; and seek professional help with their reactions if they need it.
If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, please call SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746. A TTY line for people who are deaf or hearing impaired is available at 1-800-846-8517.
If you are a behavioral health professional, the following resources related to Hurricane Katrina and disaster anniversaries may be helpful to you, your clients, or your community.
- The Dialogue: Remembering Katrina: This special double issue of The Dialogue, a quarterly e-newsletter focused on disaster behavioral health, includes an infographic and seven articles that are written in memory of all those who lost their lives and are in honor of all those who survived. The issue celebrates those who worked tirelessly to support the survivors on their road to recovery—a new normal.
- Disaster Anniversaries Webcast: This 35-minute webcast will help listeners understand common reactions individuals who have survived a disaster may experience as the anniversary approaches and how to use disaster anniversaries as opportunities to build resilience and enhance recovery among survivors and communities.
- Intermediate and Long-Term Behavioral Health Effects of Hurricane Katrina: This research bulletin includes a review of five journal articles about the intermediate and long-term behavioral health trends in survivors of Hurricane Katrina to seek an understanding of the lasting impact of large-scale disasters.
- Anniversaries and Trigger Events: This web page from SAMHSA describes how anniversaries of disasters and other trigger events may renew symptoms of emotional distress in disaster survivors.