A new study has found that young people who survive natural disasters like the tsunami or even Hurricane Katrina are at a high risk of developing chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as depression.
The study conducted by UCLA researchers says that these factors need to be kept in mind when counselling adolescents post-disaster. The study highlights the case of young survivors in the 1988 Spitak earthquake in Armenia which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed the whole area. They found that adolescents who were not treated exhibited more symptoms of PTSD and depression. Around 125 adolescents were assessed for depression and PTSD in Armenian regions of Gumri and Spitak, where the epicenter of the earthquake was located. They were given self-rating scales at an interval of 1.5 years and 5 years after the disaster. It was found that among untreated adolescents there were high scores in the 1.5 year interval, but they dropped after 5 years. Depression scores increased in both cities. A group of students who were treated using psychotherapy had less depression scores.
"Chronic PTSD and depression can impair the psychosocial development and behavior of children and adolescents, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on their families and communities. The findings unequivocally show the sustained benefits of specific types of therapy, even when provided 1.5 years after the earthquake," said lead researcher Dr. Armen K. Goenjian. The details of the study are published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.