Emotional Trauma of Katrina
By Bennie Shallbetter Feb 28, 2007, 09:22
http://22.214.171.124/40/article_994.shtml (whole article)
Now people are faced with the daunting task of recreating not just their own lives, but the life of their entire community from the ground up. According to "After Katrina: Creativity's Role in Trauma and Growth" from the Creative Education Foundation – a non-profit membership organization of leaders in the field of creativity theory and practice – this monumental task can produce different needs such as the need to find meaning, to connect with others, to examine one's identity, to imagine what could be, to create real things, and to cope with loss and grief. Thriving and not just surviving in one's post-hurricane life is a challenge to the imagination, says the article.
2/2 Mental Strain Weighing On Katrina's Kids
(CBS) On the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La., nearly 800 FEMA trailers packedwith families stretch into the distance, CBS News chief investigativecorrespondent Armen Keteyian reports. It's a mud-soaked outpost where 17 long months after Hurricane Katrina, 2,000 lives feel very much like they've reached the end of the road.
A new, in-depth study obtained exclusively by CBS News illustrates the real mental health strain of living long-term in what some have called a permanent state of limbo. The most startling finding: the devastating impact on children.
The study, done by Columbia University and the Children's Health Fund, found as many as 10,000 displaced children across the Gulf are now suffering from clinically diagnosed depression - a 400 percent increase from before the storm. "The loss of hope is a very powerful factor here," says Dr. Irwin Redlener, who supervised the study. "What we have is starkness - grim, uncomfortable overcrowded camps basically - and that's really hurting these kids."
Latoya Watts, a mother of three of those kids in a sad, muddy camp, says she's been there since March. Her 200-square-foot trailer is home to her family of four. Without a car, she can't find work. She has been keeping herc hildren warm this winter with a hairdryer.
"I'm tired of living like a charity case," Watts says.
"Kids who get very, very angry and out of control and other kids who get incredibly quiet. All sorts of signs that these kids are dealing with thingsthey can't really understand and cope with," Redlener explains.
FEMA's Gil Jamieson talks with Armen Keteyian about what's being done to help people still living in trailers.
"We've got families living with children," says Gill Jamieson of FEMA."We've done all that we can do to move those people into a permanent housing alternative as quickly as we can."
While Jamieson agrees there is a great deal of hopelessness, he adds that, "you need to look at that against the context of what we have accomplished."
FEMA has found emergency housing for more than 80 percent of those displacedby the hurricane. But that's little comfort to the residents still stuck in this trailer camp, ironically named "Renaissance Village."
1/26 Discussion of Emergency Housing's Effects on Children
12/3 Katrina and Children Easing Children's Fears
From: FEMA Filed 12/1/06 GCN
BILOXI, Miss. – The psychological effects of Hurricane Katrina fell with particular force on one group of victims—children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that children have a special vulnerability to disaster situations, making it urgent for adults to prepare them for such shocks in advance.
“Fear is rooted mostly in lack of information and children are less informed than adults,” said Kris Jones, disaster mental health director for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. “There is little doubt that a disaster such as Katrina will impact children harder than its physical effects might suggest.”
“Preparation is the key,” Jones continued, referring to the difference that parents and teachers can make in children’s fears. “Children who have been prepared for a disaster are much more likely to understand what is happening – and the more they understand, the less likely they are to panic.”
This advice should not be overlooked as the 2006 hurricane season reaches its official endpoint this week. Many government- and faith-based programs have helped children and their families to recover from the stress of Hurricane Katrina, but opportunities remain, both at home and in the classroom, to teach what to expect in a disaster and how to prepare for one.
“Children, too, are our partners in maintaining readiness,” said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer for Mississippi recovery. “Readiness for future disaster challenges should always go hand in hand with recovery.”
“When disaster strikes, the whole family is affected,” said Mike Womack, interim director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. “Preparation before a disaster helps families in the recovery process. Involving children in pulling together a family disaster supply kit and talking openly with them about what you’re doing and why helps ready them for coping with a future event.”
To address this need, a kid-friendly Internet site, “FEMA for Kids,” is available to children and parents at www.fema.gov. The site is easy enough – and safe enough – to be navigated by children working alone or in a classroom exercise. Geared to third through sixth graders, and with some activities for younger children, it combines colorful graphics, games, quizzes, prizes, original storybooks, sound and high-impact design to help young users absorb as much information as possible. Links to external sites are kept to a minimum.
Highlights include “The Disaster Area,” teaching the crucial steps that children can take in each type of disaster situation. Another feature, “Get Ready, Get Set,” covers such subjects as how to put together a supply kit, making a family disaster plan and some counseling insight: “How you might feel in a disaster.” Parents and teachers will find lesson plans, curriculum tips, classroom activities and links to other Internet resources.
A second Web site on preparedness, http://www.ready.gov/, also reaches out to children. More focused on national security emergencies than on natural disasters, this site offers a “Ready Kids” link to an entertaining children’s section, with games, puzzles and downloadable coloring pages as in “FEMA for Kids.”
“These Web sites are designed to be fun while being useful,” Russo said. “We understand that disasters are especially hard on kids, and we want them to be informed so they can feel safer.”
The information at both Web sites is free
The alternative number for those in crisis is 1-800-273-TALK. This number will put callers in touch with the federally funded National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service that has been in operation since January, 2005
8/16 - Stress building in New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina anniversary could spark more problems
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- Like many other New Orleanians nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina, John McCusker was experiencing the overwhelming stress of rebuilding his life.
McCusker, a photographer who was part of The Times-Picayune's 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning staff, was seen driving wildly through the city one day last week, attracting the attention of police.
He eventually was arrested, but not before he was subdued with a Taser and an officer fired twice at his vehicle. During the melee, he begged police to kill him. One officer suffered minor injuries.
James Arey, commander of the police department's SWAT negotiating team, said he can understand why McCusker seemingly snapped.
"There are all these things you're trying to deal with in your own life -- not enough insurance, family problems, your health problems," said Arey, who already knew McCusker. "And then day in and day out, we get to see the wreckage of our city and people's lives. It's not easy to handle."
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.
McCusker remained in the city during the storm and continued to document the unprecedented destruction -- except for a leave of absence this summer -- while dealing with the loss of his house and other personal problems.
Last week, it seems, the pressure of post-Katrina life finally got to him.
McCusker, a Times-Picayune photographer for about 20 years, is no longer jailed. He has been transferred to an inpatient facility and is undergoing treatment, his attorney, Laurie A. White, said Tuesday.
"He's a great guy, a great photographer and we're all pulling for him," said newspaper managing editor Peter Kovacs.
McCusker is mentioned in a feature on the city's travails in the current issue of American Journalism Review, saying he went back to work June 20 after a monthlong leave.
During the leave, the article says, McCusker spent much of his time sleeping off exhaustion and attending therapy sessions three times a week. He told the magazine he'd essentially become nonfunctional.
"You have to understand the depth of the horror that the city was," McCusker says in the article. "Tens of thousands of people on the freeways stranded. The children begging for food and water. The looting at the Wal-Mart. It was of biblical proportions."
This marks an especially dangerous time for residents in areas still largely destroyed by Katrina, said Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel, director of training and psychology at Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
Daniel, in New Orleans for a convention of the American Psychological Association, said the storm's anniversary will spark new feelings of loss and more emotional and physical stress.
"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.
Suicide rates in New Orleans have nearly tripled in the 11 months since the storm. Experts blame an epidemic of depression and post-traumatic stress that crosses all socio-economic lines.
Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the deputy New Orleans coroner who handles psychiatric cases, estimates the annual suicide rate was less than nine per 100,000 residents before the storm. It's since increased to more than 26 per 100,000, he said.
Along with the general stress, there are more people with chronic mental illness not getting medication in the area now, Arey said. There's also far less professional help for them.
The city's crisis-intervention unit at Charity Hospital -- the primary center for such emergency treatment before the storm -- has been closed since Katrina. That limits the options for police after they pick up someone in need of psychological help.
"There's almost no psychiatric services in Orleans Parish now," Arey said.
Found on the Project Disaster website
New Orleans, Post-Katrina: The Trauma Continues
Post Katrina posted by Paul @ 7:02 am
1) New Orleans is experiencing what appears to be a near epidemic of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.
2) The suicide rate is close to triple what it was before Hurricane Katrina struck. 9 suicides/100,000/year before Katrina to 26 suicides/100,000/year (extrapolated from the last 4 months in 2005 after Katrina).
3) The local mental health system has suffered a near total collapse.
4) One police unit has to handle 150 to 180 psychological distress calls a month.
5) The crime rate has soared. Now, 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.
6) The state estimates that the city has lost more than half its psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and other mental health workers.
7) According to the Louisiana Hospital Association, there are little more than 60 hospital beds for psychiatric patients in the seven hospitals that remain open here.
Source: NY Times, 6/20/06