Understanding Harvey’s mental health impact on students 6 months later

HOUSTON - Hurricane Harvey traumatized the Houston area pretty indiscriminately, and Houston area schools are taking a key role in recovery.

Six months later, HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza says, even now, new signs of the trauma Harvey left in its wake is still continuing to manifest.

“It’s no wonder, then, why children will act out when it starts raining, because you see immediately they’re transported right back to when they saw the water rise and enter their home,” Carranza said.

It’s a dilemma the Center for School Behavioral Health, at Mental Health America of Greater Houston, is addressing in 26 different Houston-area school and charter school districts.

“Regardless if you were flooded, you were watching the TV, you were waiting for the water to come into your house, you saw what happened to other people, you had people come live with you or you aren’t living, still, in your house,” said Janet Pozmantier, Director at the Center for School Behavioral Health at Mental Health.

Kids don’t process trauma the same way adults do, and the center trains teachers how best to address the behavior as it appears in the classroom.

“A lot of times it looks like Attention Deficit Disorder behavior, but it’s not --  it’s anxiety brought on by trauma,” Pozmantier explained.

And teachers and administrators are committed to addressing the social-emotional learning and student mental health challenges that 51 inches of rain can leave behind.

“After a traumatic event, you start to see the manifestations of that event anywhere from six months to two years post the traumatic event. We’re starting that period of time. We’re going to take every training you have and we’ll take more,” Carranza said.

Recovery, both physical and emotional, is going to be a long road for Southeast Texas.