Mounting Stress Worries Many as Storm's Anniversary Approaches
> 8/16/2006 2:11:50 PM

It was August 29th, 2005, that the horrific winds and rain of Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of New Orleans and much of Louisiana forever. Now as the anniversary of the storm approaches, many fear a rise in stress related mental health concerns, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. In their story today, CNN writes:

Stress is keeping law enforcement officers in New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish busy these days, as they answer many more calls than before the storm for domestic abuse, drunkenness and fights. Involuntary commitments to mental hospitals are up from last year, and suicides in Orleans Parish have tripled since Katrina.

What's more, psychologists say the city's mental health environment is likely to get worse as the anniversary of the Aug. 29 storm approaches, sparking post-traumatic trauma in those who suffered losses.

The article goes on to discuss the struggles of New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer John McCusker, whose recent breakdown came as a direct result of his experiences covering the disaster. McCusker's co-worker, Brian Thevenot, has published a gripping account of covering the storm and the aftermath from the perspective of a journalist in the latest edition of the American Journalism Review.

This year's convention of the American Psychological Association was held in New Orleans, and the mental health effects of Katrina took a lion's share of the spotlight. Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel of Boston's Children's Hospital, a conference attendee, spoke with CNN:

"Sometimes the initial feelings of loss re-emerge, and sometimes they re-emerge with even greater strength than they had originally, Daniel said.

A key to survival, Daniel says, is to have a strategy to cope with the feelings.

"It's important for people to anticipate a reaction and know that it's normal and they're not alone in their feelings," she said.

The waters may have subsided, but the threat of damage from health concerns remains strong. Time Magazine even went so far in their August 2nd issue to ask: "Is New Orleans Having a Mental Health Breakdown?" While breakdown may be a harsh word, the mental health outlook isn't exactly rosey. The coming anniversary will only add stress to an already strained situation. It is time for the government, both local and federal, to step up and help those brave individuals who have returned to face the rebuilding process. They face hurdles in the form of depression, PTSD and other mental health woes, but New Orleans is worth saving, and so are they.

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