Journal of Traumatic Stress Disorders & Treatment ISSN: 2324-8947

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Teachers and School Personnel as First Responders following Disasters: Survivors and Supporters

Teachers and School Personnel as First Responders following Disasters: Survivors and Supporters

Many teachers and school personnel work in the communities in which they live and following disasters and are often dealing with the same recovery issues as students. These individuals may be among the first to respond directly to students’ emotional needs at the same time as they must process their own losses and stressors. The purpose of this study is to understand the contributors to and levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms in a group of teachers and school personnel following Hurricane Katrina. The study included 495 teachers and school personnel (support staff, counselors, and administration) at schools throughout Southeast Louisiana. Surveys were requested by school administration and collected anonymously during staff meetings from December 2006 to September 2007. The majority of participants reported that their homes sustained reparable flood and/or wind damage; however almost one-quarter of the participants had uninhabitable homes. Approximately 25% of the participants had significant symptoms for PTSD and depression. Results suggest that age, previous trauma, Hurricane experiences, current alcohol use, and partner conflict significantly predicted posttraumatic stress symptoms. Results also suggest that previous trauma, hurricane experiences, and partner conflict significantly predicted depression. Findings indicated that for teachers in the present study approximately one-quarter struggled with PTSD (24%) and depression (25%) symptoms following Hurricane Katrina. To assist these individuals with supporting youth during disaster recovery, services must be made available to meet these non-traditional first responders’ emotional needs. In future disaster planning, it is imperative to focus on building teacher and staff supports through school and community activities and developing collaborations with local behavioral health resources and providers.

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