/////Psychiatry Department Helps Educators Respond to Hurricane Trauma
Psychiatry Department Helps Educators Respond to Hurricane Trauma 2018-01-05T09:15:51+00:00

NOV. 18, 2005 | Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought more than rain and wind to Arkansas; they brought hundreds of children to classrooms, many of whom were still mentally dealing with the aftermath of the storms.

To address possible mental health issues for these children, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Department of Psychiatry joined with other organizations to hold the workshop “Surviving Catastrophic Trauma: Helping Students, Staff, and School Communities Recover.”


Few hands in the conference room at the Clinton Library went up as Terri Miller, Ph.D., an assistant professor in psychiatry asked, “How many of you have gone through a major disaster?”


But as she asked if the attendees had gone through a traumatic event or the loss of a family member, more hands went up. She explained that to a smaller degree, the loss of a loved one is similar to what has happened to these children, and that they may react to the trauma in varying ways.


Miller, Rachel Bowman, Ph.D., and Dawn Doray, Psy.D., jointly presented “Effects of Trauma on Children, Adolescents and Students with Special Needs: Assessing and Referring” at the workshop.


“Many children who have experienced trauma are verbalizing about the hurricane even though they didn’t experience it,” Doray, an assistant professor in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Division, said.


She said the children who did experience the storms may have trouble processing new information because they are too focused on the trauma, adding to the difficulty of adjusting to a new school.


Bowman said children with special needs are particularly vulnerable after a disaster, and their recovery may include some behaviors of other children, but also some unique aspects.


“They are usually very aware of how others react to situations. If their caregivers are not calm, they will act out more,” she said, adding that they need to grieve just like the other children and should not have information kept from them.


More than 100 school personnel attended the workshop. The UAMS Psychiatry presentation was part of the Partners in Behavioral Health Sciences (PIBHS) outreach, which provides training for school teachers on a number of behavioral health subjects. PIBHS is funded by a National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) Science Education Partnership Award.


Other presenters from the UAMS Department of Psychiatry were Chris Rule and Ashley Hurst, both licensed certified social workers, and Glen White, Ph.D.


Co-sponsors for the workshop were the William J. Clinton Foundation and Gov. Mike Huckabee’s office. Other organizations involved were the UAMS College of Nursing, the Arkansas Department of Education, the Arkansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the University of Central Arkansas.