Analyzing children’s drawings and paintings is a renowned technique widely used by psychologists. Art is rightfully considered as a means through which children can express themselves to the fullest, portraying all their feelings and emotions – those lying on the surface as well as those hiding in the subconscious deep. The documentary Katrina’s Children utilizes the same approach for the benefit of showing the tragic even and its aftermath through children’s eyes, and what the viewer sees is the picture of physical and moral devastation.
Hurricane Katrina Divided the Children’s Lives into “Before” and “After”
Hurricane Katrina divided the children’s lives into “before” and “after”, making them turn from children into adults literally overnight. The film shows the children as conscious and conscientious beyond their biological age. They speak of the notions – such as death, loss, or justice – that under normal circumstance should lie within the realm of adult expertise, yet do so in a comprehended, self-conscious manner not all adults can demonstrate. Naturally, they also use concepts from their own realm of expertise, such as fairytale characters, sketchy human figures, and intuitive drawing techniques and colors. Inter alia, some children equalize Katrina with evil and portray it in the form of a vortex or a spiral with jaws that swallows and tears down everything around it, engulfing people and houses. In terms of colors, the children use predominantly dark ones (mostly black or colors that some children describe as “nasty”) to draw the hurricane and bright colors (happy, sunny colors of red and yellow) to portray their houses as they were before the tragedy. Also, they portray themselves and other victims of Katrina as crying human figures and add words, such as “help” or “save us,” to complement their drawings and give them voice. In the interviews, the children recall that they found support in one another and not in the authorities from whom they expected salvation. They also speak of recurring nightmares or, in contrast, happy dreams of the times before destruction. Many have moral traumas and disorders. All of them cognized the ultimate meaning of the word “devastation,” in every sense of the word, both moral and physical, yet did not give up.
In sum, perhaps the most striking detail about all the children in the documentary is their ability to comprehend their irreparable, irreversible loss, to understand that there is no coming back, as well as to cope with this loss. They demonstrate praiseworthy self-motivation and perspective even adults often lack, i.e. the determination to stay strong.
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The Effect of Katrina on Children
Those children, who have experienced Katrina first or even second hand require special attention. The studies show that those children are more likely to suffer from behavioral problems, anxiety, stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, it is particularly important to pay close attention to those children to help them live a normal life. In the well-known Katrina’s children documentary, this problem is thoroughly discussed.
The scientists have checked children who were evacuated to cruise ships right after the storm, as well as those children who have returned to St. Bernard parishes, for their levels of distress, as well as their need for psychological services. The study has shown that more than half of the children, who were displaced, were experiencing symptoms that resulted in the need for further mental health care. Their symptoms were similar to the symptoms of those children, who had experienced psychological trauma previously. As for the children, who were returning to St. Bernard Parishes, approximately 31 percent have shown significant symptoms indicative of PTSD and depression.
Joy D. Osofsky, one of the leaders of the LSU screening project, admits that those children have experienced very challenging evacuation and terrible personal losses. A lot of children would like to get back to their houses and rebuild their communities.
The scientists also admit that the children suffered not only because of the storm but also because of dislocation with their parents, friends, and classmates. One can only imagine how difficult it was for these children to adapt to new conditions. According to the officials, the special programs that should help those children get back to their normal life are already developing. For more information about the impact of Katarina on the children’s psychological health, you can read Katrina’s children American economic review.