ORLANDO, Fla. - Hurricane Maria had a stronger effect on the mental health of Puerto Ricans who moved to Central Florida than those who relocated to South Florida or who remained on the island, according to a new study published by the University of Miami and Boston University.
Of the roughly 250 people who were interviewed, those who relocated to Central Florida experienced more severe post-traumatic stress and depression, researchers said.
The study said they also had a more difficult time finding permanent affordable housing and employment and experienced more discrimination than those in South Florida.
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Nydia Irizzary said she moved to Central Florida with her two children after the storm destroyed their home and participated in the study.
"Every day, I feel sad," she said through a translator. "Finding a place to live has been the hardest, because when we first got here, we had to stay in a hotel."
Irizzary said her son was bullied because he struggled with English when they first moved to the area.
"There are a lot of job openings here, but the language is something that's keeping me back," she said through a translator.
Researchers said they hope the study highlights the need for more mental health services.
Orlando's Christ the King Episcopal Church said it hopes to begin providing Hurricane Maria evacuees mental health services within three months through a partnership with the University of Central Florida.
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