The flooding and recovery from Hurricane Harvey left emotional scars on countless people in the Houston area.
Just like their parents, children had to deal with the trauma and the loss brought by the storm. For many, the impact lingers.
Mental Health America of Greater Houston put together a Children’s Mental Health Art Showcase, providing an opportunity for children to express themselves after the impact of Hurricane Harvey two years ago.
“Simply put, art provides an outlet when words fail,” said Tilicia Johnson, mental health literacy manager for MHA Houston. “Words don’t come easy for some. And if you can’t completely understand what you’re feeling, this is one way children can find their ‘voice’ that can lead to healing or recognition–getting the help that leads to the road to recovery.”
The artwork reflects the wide range of traumatic losses children endured during and after Harvey: damage or loss of their belongings or homes; relocating schools because of extension damage; nightmares and sleep disruption; and even injury to themselves or someone they love, and death.
“We often talk about children in terms of resiliency—that they seem to bounce back quickly from adversity. But that’s not the reality—especially in extreme circumstances,” Johnson said. “While on the surface the child may seem fine once the crying stops, the gravity of disaster situations weighs on the child’s mind.”
Johnson said disaster recovery occurs over time in phases and is not a linear process. Experts say a typical disaster recovery trajectory is one to three years, depending on the severity of the disaster and the individual impact.
“What may be hard for parents to process is that changes in behavior, anxiety, difficulty concentrating in school, acting out, may occur months later,” Johnson added. “And the reliving, as years pass, can remind them of that difficulty and cause a re-occurrence of trauma-related symptoms.”
HOUSTONCHRONICLE.COM: Memorial Harvey survivors reflect two years later
Johnson noted that traumatized children see their parents struggling to right their world. They see their friends, neighbors, teachers, continue to struggle. They hear stories and see pictures over and over again.
MHA Houston encourages parents to talk to their children about their feelings after a traumatic event.
“It’s important your child feels safe and that can come from what you do and say,” said Johnson. “It’s also important to maintain routines for everyone in the family. We are creatures of habit and find comfort in that.”
Danny Hermosillo is the Digital News Editor for Chron.com | Read him on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and our subscriber site, HoustonChronicle.com | Follow him on Twitter at @Dannyherm1| Email him at Danny.Hermosillo@chron.com