These Teens Fled Their Homes Because of Hurricanes

Hector found that many stores in his area had shut down after the storm, except for a McDonald’s and a market that caters to the Latinx population. “It felt horrible to come back to New Orleans,” Hector said of his new city. “I didn’t want to be there.”

But Destenin, Hector, and their peers at Las Sierras are determined not to let this set them back. “We feel united,” Destenin says resolutely. “We are all still trying to learn English and reach this goal together.”

Maurya Glaude is a professor at Tulane’s School of Social Work with an expertise in disaster mental health and school social work. Through her private practice, she also counsels teens and parents of teens for symptoms of anxiety, depression, poor adjustment, and grief.

In the wake of Ida and COVID, Glaude has seen requests for private appointments and school social work services significantly increase. Glaude tells Teen Vogue that her clients who are parents say they’ve seen their kids develop worse sleep habits and experience sharp academic declines. 

Glaude also links Ida with an increase in anxiety levels. “Kids may not have stability in knowing where they’re going to sleep, where they’re going to be educated, when they’re going to have time with their peers,” she explains. “It really creates a perfect storm for social anxiety.”

As hurricane season gets longer and more intense each year, Glaude says, affected areas will need to step up their mental health services. Glaude points to Ida as just one layer of the compounded trauma faced by this generation of teens in Southern Louisiana. She emphasizes that teens in the region were born between 2005-2009, and the stress of loss and restoration after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike has impacted them from an early age.

“If we don’t take the information we currently have and be proactive by addressing the potential negative impacts on academics, emotions, and socialization,” Glaude says, “we are going to have more children with anxiety or children experiencing depression, hopelessness, etc.”

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida on the horizon, Grand Isle continues to work toward recovery. Isabelle thinks life on the island feels different. “You start to lose motivation and sight of just, ‘Why?’” Isabelle says. “It comes to a point when you’re like, ‘I am tired of doing this. I just want things to go back to normal.’”

After Ida, her school’s enrollment dropped from 135 to 64 students in grades pre-K through 12. Isabelle used to play basketball, run cross country, and do cheerleading, but the school doesn’t have enough people for sports teams anymore. “It’s not the same,” she says. “One girl in my class — we grew up together. Like, we fit. We started in pre-K and ever since we’ve been friends. And now she’s virtual. She’s not here, and it’s just hard.”

Hurricane Ida has been a major obstacle for the people and infrastructure of southeast Louisiana, but Isabelle refuses to let the storm stop her from achieving her goals. She plans to attend Southeastern Louisiana University in the fall to study biological sciences on her path to becoming a veterinarian. “Throughout [the disruptions from Ida], I’ve always had my plan,” she says. “To get through with my good grades, keep my GPA high, and get through with my plan. That’s all I got left to hope for.”

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