An examination of a school-based intervention for children who have experienced trauma from a natural disaster

Powell, Tara M.
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Natural disasters can have a devastating impact on the social and emotional well-being of children and adolescents (Garrett et al., 2007; Kataoka, Rowan, & Hoagwood, 2009; Walsh, 2007). Exposure to disasters puts young people at risk for a number of stressors such as displacement from their homes, loss of friends, family, home and community (Abigail Gewirtz, Forgatch, & Wieling, 2008; La Greca & Silverman, 2010). They are also at a higher risk for future mental health issues related to the event including anxiety and depressive disorders (Jaycox; et al., 2010; Sapienza & Masten, 2011). While there are many interventions that address mental health symptoms, there is a gap in widely accessible prevention programming for mitigation of future mental health issues for young people affected by a disaster (Silverman et al., 2008). To address the gap in services this dissertation sought to examine the efficacy of an intervention, the Journey of Hope (JoH), an eight-session school based model designed to be delivered to the aggregate of children and adolescents affected by disasters. This three article dissertation presents the JoH through: (1) a conceptual description of the intervention; (2) a quasi-experimental waitlist control study and; (3) a qualitative case study. Findings from the quantitative and qualitative studies indicate that after participation in the JoH, participants had an increase in protective factors such as positive coping skills, pro-social behaviors, and affect regulation. The qualitative case study also indicated that children learned about disaster related issues such as grief, anger, and peer victimization. Future research should examine the longitudinal impact of the intervention through larger samples, different geographical and cultural contexts, and with sensitive measurement instruments.