PTSD After Hurricane Maria

Cindy Chan

Claudia Díaz, Writer

Sayra González
Dr. Sayra González, Saint John’s School psychologist

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 leaving a disastrous and stressful aftermath. There was no telephone signal and communication was scarce. Some people had no power for months and there was horrible damage to the infrastructure on the island. The damage caused an increase in stress, felt by if not all, most of the population of Puerto Rico.

Saint John’s School opened up a week after the Hurricane. The school offered a modified schedule in order for students to complete their homework and get home safely. It offered meals, electricity, which was scarce, and was overall a comfortable change for the faculty and students even if it was for just a few hours a day.

I talked to Sayra González, Saint John’s Schools psychologist, in order to know about PTSD after Hurricane Maria. PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is triggered by a traumatic event. To diagnose PTSD, psychiatrists and psychologists use the DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). There are also some requirements that need to be met in order for  it to be considered PTSD such as: at least two weeks after the event you experience symptoms like re-experiencing the event, avoidance of things or places that remind you of the event. Many people also experience nervousness and anxiety. PTSD can be long lasting if not treated.

Sayra González thinks that PTSD became common for us after Hurricane Maria, and this is being confirmed by studies that are being conducted. After the Hurricane, she confirmed that she noticed an increased in stress and anxiety in basically everyone in the school. When students experience high levels of anxiety and experience panics attacks they go to Sayra González’s office where she offers counseling and exercises/ coping skills to help with the anxiety. If the anxiety gets to a point that needs further help than what the school can offer, she recommends them to outside support.

She says that Saint John’s became a safe-haven for many in the school. Electronics could be charged, faculty could make ice, the shower facilities were available, air conditioned classrooms, and the internet was available. Teachers had a harder role, they had to teach the students and be their role models while also coping with everything from home.





*This is a research article. Please do not self-diagnosed yourself or others.*