More Problems Than Solutions for Depression Left in Katrina's Wake
> 6/21/2006 10:02:51 AM

Depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and a general feeling of hopelessness again take centerstage in a New York Times article about the mental health and overall health care situation in New Orleans. Today's story couldn't make its point any more clear:

New Orleans is experiencing what appears to be a near epidemic of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders, one that mental health experts say is of an intensity rarely seen in this country. It is contributing to a suicide rate that state and local officials describe as close to triple what it was before Hurricane Katrina struck and the levees broke 10 months ago.

The worst cases are ones that the article describes in its opening, with police officers forced to carry a great deal of the mental health service load, performing the role of enforcer, but also roadside therapist. But even when residents don't fall to that point, they must battle everyday against a creeping feelings of depression and anxiety.

This is a city where thousands of people are living amid ruins that stretch for miles on end, where the vibrancy of life can be found only along the slivers of land next to the Mississippi. Garbage is piled up, the crime rate has soared, and as of Tuesday the National Guard and the state police were back in the city, patrolling streets that the Police Department has admitted it cannot handle on its own. The reminders of death are everywhere, and the emotional toll is now becoming clear...

Many people who are not at serious risk of suicide are nonetheless seeing their lives eroded by low-grade but persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and stress-related illnesses, doctors and researchers say. All this goes beyond the effects of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, [Charles G. Curie, the administrator of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,] said. Beyond those of Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo and Ivan.

Ever since Katrina brought devastation to much of the New Orleans area stories have come trickling out of the region about the lack of proper depression treatment options. We have known that stress disorders would run rampant, among children, but also among the adult population of New Orleans. And now, in many cases, the doctors and mental health care workers best equipped to diagnose and provide treatment for these disorders are not returning.

These problems are not going away. With very few alternative options, we must find a way to get more adequate care to those in the affected regions. Depression and PTSD can eat away at a person, hindering the recovery process not only on a personal level, but community wide. Mental health support and proper depression treatment are the only options we have.

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