Insufficient Mental Healthcare by yaofenjin


									Jase Carlile                                                            Comp 1301

                          Insufficient Mental Healthcare

                     In New Orleans and Surrounding Areas

      Hurricane Katrina was a terrible storm that caused a plethora of damage

to New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as many other coastal areas. Psychological

stress is another damaging factor of the storm that victims experienced, which is

commonly overlooked. Survivors did, indeed, lose their homes and most

material possessions, as well as family members, unfortunately. The immediate

reaction to a tragedy of this severity is depression and other psychological

disorders. The immense amount of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina has

affected New Orleans residents in a significant way; many have developed

mental illnesses and do not have enough resources available to help them.

      Before the hurricane hit New Orleans, there was a small group of people

that suffered from mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and post-

traumatic stress disorder (Mills, Edmondson, and Park 116). Afterwards, these

numbers skyrocketed, which will be discussed later in further detail.

Approximately one million people were forced to leave their homes because of

Hurricane Katrina (Hardy 4). This causes a significant amount of stress to

anybody who must endure this difficult task. A total of 175 surveys were given to

families who evacuated from New Orleans. The survey included demographic

and background questions, a lifetime trauma history questionnaire, and the Acute

Stress Disorder Scale (ASDS). The surveys revealed that 60% experienced

injuries, 70% experienced illnesses, 60% saw corpses, 80% were separated from
Jase Carlile                                                               Comp 1301

family members, 70% lost their home, and 50% lost their vehicles (Mills 118).

The percentages, which are approximate, reveal that the majority of the families

that took the survey experienced a huge amount of heartache and loss, which

inevitably leads to the development of psychological disorders. When a person

experiences tragedy of this magnitude, depression is usually the first to hit.

Overwhelming new emotions and new responsibilities inhabit the victim, making

it almost impossible to not feel sad, upset, and/or angry. With all this tragedy,

most would think that there must be hundreds of psychologists in New Orleans

helping victims sort through all these emotions. This is the problem. Before

Hurricane Katrina, there were approximately 225 psychiatrists working in New

Orleans, which could effectively serve about 40,000 people. According to the

Orleans Parish Medical Society, only seventeen remain in the city (Siegel 4). If

the measly number of seventeen isn’t bad enough, the number of people who

need mental assistance is worse: 250,000 (Siegel 4). The statistics make my

argument for me. Obviously, there are nowhere near enough psychiatrists in the

city to even help a small portion of the 250,000 adults and children that need

counseling and medication. The need is dire and continues to be unaddressed.

       A fact that is often overlooked is that children have been affected by the

hurricane and its effects just as much as, if not more than, adults. Corey Hebert,

a New Orleans pediatrician, “dreads the rainy weeks when he knows he’ll face

about 20 sobbing, screaming children in full-blown panic attacks.” Anytime it

rains in the city, the children start acting like this “…because they’re terrified

another hurricane is coming.” He also said that before the storm, 5% of his
Jase Carlile                                                              Comp 1301

children patients had mental problems, and after the storm, 50% of his children

patients are experiencing mental-health problems (Elias 1). Once again, trauma

from the hurricane is to blame. Trinity Williams is a seven-year-old girl who has

lived with her mother in a FEMA travel trailer for about two years now. Since the

destruction of their home and occupancy of the trailer, Trinity has become more

angry and getting into fights in school (Elias). This has become common with

many evacuated children in public schools all around the country. Around

30,000 children are still living in FEMA trailers. Living in the trailers does not

provide a sense of permanence and stability, which every child needs in his or

her life to function normally. I compare it to foster children, bouncing around from

home to home; most foster children have some sort of psychological problems

because of this. Adults have the capacity to look toward the future, seeing that

everything will work out in the end. Children can’t do that. They deal with the

present; their current situation is not good at all, thus causing them to act out in

school, become anxious and frightened, and the like. Also, when children see

their parents constantly stressed or outwardly showing their emotions, it is

natural for them to pick up the same characteristics or just become commonly

depressed (Elias 2). Catherine Cottone, a psychologist at the University of

Buffalo in New York states, “If the environment and adults around them provide a

safe, structured, and nurturing response to the disaster, the children have a

better chance of faring well” (“Stressed” 7). Teachers and school counselors

must also learn to deal with these children, even if they are nowhere near

Louisiana. For example, a teacher in Commerce, Georgia received a new
Jase Carlile                                                             Comp 1301

student J.D. Meisler from Metairie, Louisiana. She and her family relocated to

Georgia because they have family in the area. Meisler’s teacher conducted an

interview and asked her many questions about how she felt about being so far

away from “home,” was she scared while she was evacuating, etc. She also

asked her about her family that still resides in Louisiana, and Meisler’s

responded that she was still concerned about their safety and well-being. Even

though it was twelve months after Katrina, she was still very much concerned

about her current situation as well as her extended family’s. This demonstrates

that traumatic experiences take a long time to deal with. The teacher conducted

this interview in order to establish a closer relationship with her new student, but

she also was interested in identifying Meisler’s emotional state, which was

obviously affected greatly by the hurricane (Bender and Sims 40).

       As mentioned earlier, the development of mental illnesses increased

greatly after Hurricane Katrina hit. Before the storm, the percentage of the

population that had some type of mental health issue was 15.7%. In a post-

Katrina survey, the percentage had risen to 31.2%, almost doubling (Kessler

931). This is a good indicator of the severity of the effects that the hurricane had

on residents. Surprisingly, the rates for suicide ideation did not increase

significantly. Before Katrina, the percentage was 2.8%, which afterwards was

2.9% (Kessler 931). The difference in the two is quite shocking. Most would

think that they would be one in the same, but apparently they are not. Maybe,

subconsciously, people feel they already escaped death and don’t feel the need

to take their lives freely. This remains a mystery to doctors and psychologists.
Jase Carlile                                                            Comp 1301

       Race is topic of Hurricane Katrina that many feel very strongly about.

Minorities and people of an economic disadvantage were a big group affected by

Katrina. The fact that many did not have insurance and other safety nets also

increases their risk of developing a disorder due to increased amount of stress.

One article discussing poor evacuees reads, “…there will be no returning to the

life they knew” (Kessler 3). Studies have shown that African Americans are more

likely to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD (“Many” 2). It is also

thought that minorities enduring daily experiences with racial discrimination and

prejudice can make them more susceptible to develop PTSD. Red-Cross

volunteer Priscilla P. Dass Brailsford marked, “The disproportionate degree to

which African Americans bore the brunt of the suffering and loss is clearly

attributable to the economic and social stratification that was present in New

Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, but became magnified after the storm” (“Many”

3). Volunteers like her were able to see the trauma up close and personal

because many spent the majority of their time in shelters that were predominately

filled with African Americans. Another Red-Cross volunteer Alise G. Bartley went

to many shelters, as well as many neighborhoods. She drove around in a van,

handing out blankets, drinks, food, and other necessities to those in need. She

found that many were too proud to accept anything, saying that they could take

care of themselves. Most lots that she drove by had FEMA trailers sitting in front

of the house, if the house still existed (Bartley 10). As disturbed as many of the

victims were, they were glad to see that somebody was trying to help their

community in any way possible.
Jase Carlile                                                             Comp 1301

       A big part of many communities are college campuses, which offer

employment to many people as well as home to many college students looking to

further their education. Many colleges in Mississippi, Alabama, and especially

Louisiana were affected by the hurricane. Marvalene Hughes is the president of

Dillard University, a predominately African American University. She wrote a

brief article about the inspiration that everyone can receive by coming together.

The university was devastated by the destruction of Katrina, not allowing

students to continue going to school for the rest of the fall (Hughes 19). Getting

into college is not easy, and for that dream to be destroyed by one event, it can

cause anybody to break down. Luckily, other universities accepted students into

their facilities to continue their education. But, just as children need the normalcy

and stability that a home can offer, the college students were uprooted from their

dorms and apartments and forced to leave. It’s nothing short of tragic, which is

why volunteers paid visits to campuses directly after the storm and a while

afterwards. Raymond M. Scurfield, a Vietnam War veteran and expert on PTSD,

volunteered his time to talk to students and faculty after the hurricane destroyed

much of the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Park campus. A specific

case is a single mother who decided to take classes at the university, trying to

get her life back to normal. She found that she could not focus on the work

because she was so distracted with other issues pertaining to the storm (Hebel

2). Surely the sessions helped her, maybe even allowing her to continue taking

classes. This proves that fact that hurricane survivors need someone to talk to,

more specifically someone who understands to a varying degree what they are
Jase Carlile                                                             Comp 1301

going through. They need someone to help them deal with the extreme

emotional difficulty that they are experiencing. Mr. Scurfield sincerely wants to

help the students and faculty with this, proven when he states, “I can’t help you

forget the trauma. I can help you learn to coexist more peacefully with it.” (Hebel


       Obviously, the need for additional mental health facilities is crucial. While

progress is slow, it is just that: progress. Many clinics are opening up in

Louisiana, most without government assistance. If the government would

allocate more money to be put toward this area of need, the problems would

lessen greatly. While there is a lot of material destruction that took place, even

more psychological destruction occurred, and is not stopping until Hurricane

Katrina survivors get the help and counseling that they need. Structural damage

is done; psychological damage is not. Once people get their homes rebuilt, their

families back together, and a sense of community formed, they will be able to get

their lives back, hopefully lessening their stress levels and eliminating any

psychological issues that remain. It is a long road ahead, and unless these

issues are addressed, there is no end in sight.
Jase Carlile                                                           Comp 1301

                                   Works Cited

B. Denise Hawkins, The Road to Psychological Recovery, 22.18, 2005, 1-4,

      Academic Search Complete, EBSCO, Bell Library, 10 Oct. 2007


Bartley, Alise G. “Confronting the Realities of Volunteering for a National

      Disaster.” Journal of Mental Health Counseling 29.1 (Jan. 2007): 4-16.

      Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus Christi, TX.

      10 October 2007. <



Bender, William N., and Rebecca Sims. “Katrina Kids!.” Teaching Exceptional

      Children 40.1 (Sep. 2007): 40-47. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO.

      Bell Library, Corpus Christi, TX. 2 December 2007. <http://0-


Elias, Marilyn. Trauma Shapes Katrina’s Kids. USA TODAY. 2007. 10 Oct. 2007


Jase Carlile                                                        Comp 1301

Hardy, Lawrence. “After the storm, schools reach out to traumatized students.”

      American School Board Journal 192.11 (Nov. 2005): 4-6. Academic

      Search Complete. EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus Christi, TX. 17 October

      2007. <http://0-


Hebel, Sara. “A Trauma Expert Helps a Campus Cope.” Chronicle of Higher

      Education 53.2 (01 Sep. 2006): 15-15. Academic Search Complete.

      EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus Christi, TX. 2 December 2007. <http://0-


Hughes, Marvalene. “Out of Trauma, Triumph & Courage.” Presidency 8.3 (Fall

      2005): 14-20. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus

      Christi, TX. 17 October 2007. <http://0-


“Many Convention Sessions Devoted to the Storm’s Effects and Recovery.” APA

      ONLINE. 2006. 21 October 2007.


Jase Carlile                                                           Comp 1301


Mills, Mary Alice, Donald Edmondson, and Crystal L. Park. “Trauma and Stress

      Response Among Hurricane Katrina Evacuees.” American Journal of

      Public Health. 97 (Jan. 2007): S116-S123. Academic Search Complete.

      EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus Christi, TX. 2 December 2007. <http://0-


Ronald C. Kessler et al. Mental Illnesses and Suicidality After Hurricane Katrina.

      Bulletin of the World Health Organization 84.12 (Dec. 2006): 930-939.

      Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus Christi, TX. 10

      Oct. 2007 <>

Siegel, Marc. "Trauma in New Orleans." The Nation 10 Sept. 2007: 4-5. Abstract.

      The Nation. 10 Oct. 2007 <>

“Stressed-Out Victims of Katrina.” USA Today Magazine 134.2725 (Oct. 2005):

      7-7. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Bell Library, Corpus Christi,

      TX. 2 December 2007. <http://0-



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