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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State: Schools Ideal Site for Kids’ Postdisaster Mental Health Screening

Locating mental health services in schools in the wake of disasters could make those efforts more effective and better promote children’s post-disaster mental health worldwide, according to a team of researchers led by Georgia State University professors.

school of public health Betty Lai
[Photo: Dr. Betty Lai]

About 100 million children worldwide are affected each year by disasters, including floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. These catastrophic events threaten their education, relationships and health, the researchers noted in an article published in Current Psychiatry Reports, titled “Schools and Disasters: Safety and Mental Health Assessment and Interventions for Children.” Its lead author is Dr. Betty Lai, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

“Safe schools are needed to support the positive social and intellectual development of children after disasters,” the article stated. “Safe schools are also needed to protect children, teachers, and other adult staff from death and injury, while simultaneously bolstering disaster risk reduction and overall community resilience.”

The United Nations Comprehensive School Safety Framework currently includes three pillars of school safety: safe learning facilities, disaster management and risk reduction, and resilience education. The researchers have proposed a fourth pillar in their report: using schools as sites for mental health assessments and interventions to treat the large numbers of children affected by disasters each year.

“From a public health perspective, basing assessments within schools has numerous advantages in post-crisis and post-disaster situations,” the researchers stated. “Assessments in schools may be administered to large groups of children at low cost.”

They also noted that, “from a clinical perspective, basing assessments in schools may provide access to information that is not available from other sources. For example, teachers are well situated to offer insights regarding how children functioned in the classroom before a disaster.”

The article’s authors also included Dr. Ann-Margaret Esnard, professor of public management and policy at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies; Dr. Sarah R. Lowe with Montclair State University and Dr. Lori Peek with Colorado State University.

To learn more about the disaster recovery research being led by Drs. Lai and Esnard, go to