Family context of mental health risk in Tsunami-exposed adolescents: Findings from a pilot study in Sri Lanka
Using survey data from 325 Tsunami-exposed adolescents and mothers from two villages in southern Sri Lanka, this pilot study investigated influences of Tsunami exposure and subsequent psychosocial losses on adolescent depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Findings generally support the study hypotheses: disaster exposure (for example experiences of property destruction and deaths of close others) contributes to depressive and PTSD symptoms in adolescents. Findings also show that psychosocial losses associated with Tsunami exposure, such as prolonged
displacement, social losses, family losses, and mental health impairment among mothers, contribute to depressive and PTSD symptoms in adolescents. Results suggest that the influence of Tsunami exposure on adolescent mental health operates partially through Tsunami-related psychosocial losses. As expected, positive mother–child relationships provide a compensatory influence on both depressive and PTSD symptoms of adolescents. In addition, high levels of depressive symptoms among mothers increases the detrimental influence of other Tsunami-related psychosocial losses on adolescent mental health. These preliminary findings suggest ways to improve ongoing recovery and reconstruction programs and assist in formulating new programs for families exposed to both the Tsunami and other natural disasters. More importantly, findings from this pilot study emphasize the urgent need for larger systematic studies focusing on mental health following disaster exposure.