Psychological Impact of Mass-Causality Incident

Psychological Impact of Mass-Causality Incident

Hurricane Katrina (United States, 2005)


The hurricane Katrina entered the history books as the most destructive storm to affect United States and also claimed the spot as the most expensive storm to rehabilitate the effects at almost $108 billion in damage cost. The storm ranks as the sixth among the ever experienced Atlantic hurricanes in terms of strength. The Hurricane Katrina killed an approximate 1833 people while the subsequent flooding left millions as homeless in the regions of the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. The effect of Katrina was far much beyond the physical devastation as they included the health and mental health difficulties.  The hurricane mainly affected the poor and vulnerable residents from New Orleans who were mainly African Americans. The effects deteriorated the conditions of these already vulnerable community members (Rhodes, Chan, Paxson, Waters, & Fussell, 2010).

The Psychological Impacts of Hurricane Katrina

Disasters are known to create incidences of physical, emotional, psycho-social and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies done by the National Co-morbidity Survey into the post-Katrina effects found out that there were high prevalence of mental illness among those affected by the Hurricane Katrina ( (Adeola, 2009). Among those directly affected by the hurricane Katrina, it was found out that they were in need of a psychotropic medication refill. These individuals portrayed symptoms like insomnia, sadness, and anxiety. A few cases recorded post-traumatic stress disorder as indicated from the review of the clinic psychiatric records. Some studies identified depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. (North, 2010).


After Hurricane Katrina, there were clinical initiatives and deployments courtesy of the local, state, and national agencies. There was formation of a Katrina Community Advisory Group established to determine the impact of the storm among the community in Gulf Coast. There were also deployments that were sent to help the emergency official in offering mental health response. Diagnosis was carried out through screening, assessment, and intervention the psychological effects were determined.

The indirect victims

The researchers noted that lack of social support and other related resources leads to psychological disorders even among the indirect victims. As people strive to acquire and retain resources after disaster, the level of stress escalated. The indirect victim underwent stress due to the social capital stress as they try to sustain and help out their families and stress. Through the various social interactions, the individuals though not affected direct would get distress in their bid to offer love, caring and a bonding to the affected group. It was also recognized that loss of loved ones created trauma among some individuals.

Treatment plans

In dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina among the children, there was a cognitive-behavioral training that was successful in helping these children deal with effects. The cognitive-behavioral treatment in this case was used to teach the children how to recognize the feeling causing psychological distress. The individuals are then taught on how to relax and be composed an avoiding relapse.  After fifteen months following the disaster, the children in New Orleans diagnosed with PTSD were subjected to either group based therapy, individual trauma related, or cognitive-behavioral therapy through mental health clinics. These treatment strategies helped the individuals handle, exposure, anxiety, and negative moods. Among the adolescents, there was a school based group therapy designed to help individuals deal with increasing self-efficacy, relaxation methods, and hierarchy exposure to test anxiety. These interventions were effective in reducing the anxiety levels and producing positive effects to the PTSD (Jones, Burns, Immel, & Moore).

Oklahoma City Bombing

This mass casualty incident took place in 1995 where Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This attack was a result of domestic extremist who used a truck bomb. This attack claimed the lives of 168 people among them 19 young children who had been attending a day care center and injuring over six hundred and fifty. The blast destroyed 300 more buildings in the neighboring region. 

Psychological impacts of direct Victims

A study was carried out among the survivors of the Oklahoma Building Bombing that involved the individuals who were in the building at the time of the blast, or in nearby building or were unprotected outside the building where there were sustained severe damage and injuries and death of occupants. It was found out that despite the exposure to this disaster, the majority of these individuals did not acquire a psychiatric disorder. The most common symptoms that these survivors were found to have experienced include symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and comorbid post disaster psychiatric disorder.  The PTSD symptoms noted among these individuals include re-experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and vivid memory of the incident. Other symptoms included avoidance and numbing of any reminders of the event. Others experienced hyper arousal symptoms among them jumpiness, lack of sleep, inconsistent concentration (North, 2010).

Psychological impacts to the indirect victims

Some of the indirect victims who were found to experience psychological related issues were the first responders and family members of victims. The psychological impacts to this category of individuals include grief, severe depression, substance abuse, anger, domestic violence, and other stress connected disorder. There were also indicated cased on short-term memory, hallucinations, and frequent nightmares. The first responders in this case worked under difficult and dangerous conditions where some of these rescuers were injured. They handled a lot of dead bodies and body parts. These experiences are known to create psychotically impacts among these rescue workers. The experience put emotional pressures among these (Fox, 2015).


A diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) part of  DSM-III-R and Disaster Supplement to acquire data on full diagnostic criteria establish the post disaster psychological impacts, disaster exposure, levels of  upset and distress as well as other stressful aspect of life (North, 2010).

Treatment plans

The mental health specialists in Oklahoma identified the need to develop a recovery plan to help the victims of the bombing recover from the psychological effects. The bombing had created a long-term need for mental health services. The recovery process developed had four phases. The first phase is the heroic phase that takes place during an impact and entails making courageous efforts. The second phase is the honeymoon period where some individuals get attention and become optimistic. The third phase on dillusionment involves realizing that things have changed ad will never be the same again. The fourth phase is the reconstruction phase that should be achieved within five years. The first responders should be helped take off the burden of the feeling of having not done enough. For the victims to help deal the situation there restitution process was carried out that had the victims not seeking restitution payments as no money would be enough to restore them.


Adeola, F. (2009). Mental Health & Psychosocial Distress Sequelae of Katrina: AN Empricla Study of Survivor. Human Ecology Review .

Fox, J. (2015). Impact of the Oklahoma City Bombing 20 Years later. Retrieved from

Jones, R., Burns, K., Immel, C., & Moore, R. G. (n.d.). The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Children and Adolscents. Retrieved from

North, C. (2010). A Tale of Two Studies of Two Disasters: Comparing Psychosocial Response to Disaster Among Oklahoma City Bommbing Survivors and Hurrican Katrina Evacuees. Rehabilitation Psychology, 241-246.

Rhodes, J., Chan, C., Paxson, C., Waters, M., & Fussell, E. (2010). The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mental and Physical Health of Low-Income Parents in New Orleans. Am Journal Orthopsychiatry , 237-247.

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