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Stamford, Conn. – April 24, 2013 – AmeriCares and the YMCA of Greater New York have launched a counseling program for children at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Studies indicate 27 percent of children directly impacted by a disaster still have post-trauma symptoms three months after the event.
The program is based at elementary schools in two of Staten Island’s hardest-hit neighborhoods – P.S. 39 in South Beach and P.S. 52 in Midland Beach – where the sheer force of the floodwaters ripped homes off foundations and storm victims were saved by first responders in boats and helicopters. Six months later, some families are still displaced and some children are beginning to exhibit signs of distress at school.
“Many families have been so overwhelmed dealing with basic needs that their emotional needs have been put on the backburner,” said Jacqueline Fiore, executive director of the YMCA of Greater New York’s Counseling Services Branch in Staten Island. “For the youngest Sandy victims the stress at home is palpable, and this program will allow the children most seriously affected to come together with their peers to learn coping skills.”
Eighty students are participating in the counseling sessions run by licensed counselors from the YMCA of Greater New York’s Counseling Services Branch with funding from AmeriCares Sandy Relief Program. YMCA counselors will also provide training for school guidance counselors, therapists and social workers so they can continue group counseling sessions after the 12-week program ends.
“The long-term recovery is just beginning for storm victims still living with friends and relatives or in hotels, and their mental health needs are often overlooked,” said AmeriCares Vice President of Emergency Response Garrett Ingoglia. “Studies done after Hurricane Katrina and other emergencies have shown more than one-quarter of children affected exhibit symptoms of depression and other mental health issues in the months following a disaster.”
Counseling for the youngest storm victims is a key component of AmeriCares Sandy Relief Program. To date, the nonprofit global health and disaster relief organization has provided $4.5 million in aid benefitting more than 400,000 storm victims in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. AmeriCares is also supporting counseling for children in New Jersey and providing training to help pediatricians in Brooklyn, N.Y., identify children at risk of mental health problems because of the disruption caused by Sandy.
AmeriCares supported similar counseling services for schoolchildren after tropical storm Irene devastated small towns in upstate New York in 2011 leaving many families homeless, businesses boarded up and parents out of work. The organization also supports counseling services and garden therapy programs for earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan.
The Staten Island YMCA Counseling Service offers hope to individuals and families whose lives have been turned upside-down by addiction. Since 1980, the Y has provided the Staten Island community with comprehensive prevention and treatment services that promote the development of spirit, mind and body. A state-licensed outpatient program includes treatment services for adults and older teens, prevention services for at-risk youth, and counseling services for children whose lives have been affected by a family member’s addiction.