Session: Environmental and Racial Justice, Traumatic Effects, and Strength-Related Growth after Major Disasters (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

339 Environmental and Racial Justice, Traumatic Effects, and Strength-Related Growth after Major Disasters

Sunday, January 16, 2022: 11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Independence BR F, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Mental Health
Symposium Organizer:
Amy Ai, PhD, FSU
James Clark, PhD, Florida State University and Irvin Clark, PhD, Florida State University
Over past decades, climate change has brought about the number of extreme disasters such as hurricanes and tornados. According to the WHO, ongoing environmental and other external conditions exacerbated by deadly storms can lead to severe mental health issues, especially among those with limited resources and minority groups. Deadly disasters share at least two features for testing human resilience. First, it signifies dramatic temporal change from a normal status to an upside-down world. Second, members in the impacted community suffer from identical catastrophic events. Deadly storms can leave the lasting damage and cost for community rebuilding and lasting negative mental health impacts. But consequences may vary with demographic and socioeconomic differences in community victims. Today, trauma scholars are calling for more attention to collective trauma; in particular, natural disasters. Echoing the call, this symposium gathered four outcome studies about two types of extreme disasters in Deep South, using mixed methods. On March 3, 2019 an EF4 tornado struck rural Alabama, killing 23 and injuring hundreds in the small town of Beauregard, with disproportionate impact among low-come and Black residents. In fall, 2017, Category-5 Hurricane Maria(H-Maria), one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history, demolished Puerto Rico, destroying numerous homes and communication services, creating a mental health crisis, and officially resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths(estimated 4,650 deaths). A year late, Category-5 Hurricane Michael(H-Michael), the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida Panhandle, devastated communalities there. However, limited research has addressed the community-based collective traumatization caused by catastrophic disasters, as well as related environmental, racial, and social justice issues. In this panel, Study-1, an interdisciplinary ethnographic study, shows how cultural practices of disaster aid as “gift� can compound impacts on vulnerable communities and shape the recovery process in rural areas of Alabama affected by tornados. Study-2 investigated peritraumatic factors (emotional response, negative coping, and trait positive strength factors that predicted quality of life(satisfaction with life) and pathology (depression) among victims of H-Maria and Michael in Latino and White victims(N=556). Study-3 explored the role of perceived spiritual support in posttraumatic growth(PTG) and posttraumatic stress disorders(PTSD), as well as moderators, in this sample, because disaster victims, especially minorities, tend to pursue their higher power for coping and meaning. Finally, Study-4 took a qualitative approach to reveal the hidden racial, social, and political justice issues within the Black communities, severely damaged by H-Michael, in Panama City, because community members were not able or hesitated to participate in on-line surveys due to the lasting recovery process within many homes. The above findings suggest the need for social work scholars to collaborate with communities impacted by destructive disasters in order to gain deeper understanding of the lasting damage, loss, stress, and posttraumatic growth at a community level. The results also indicate that the conventional approach in trauma research may be valuable in detecting individual risk and protective factors; but, qualitative approaches could help gain more insight into issues related posttraumatic environmental, racial, social, and political justice, so as to enhance community-based disaster assessment, relief, and intervention.
* noted as presenting author
Negative Coping, Positive Emotions, and Post-Disaster Resilience
Katrina Borne, MSW, Florida State University
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