What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mental health problems up, not down

Published on November 1, 2007

The percentage of people reporting serious mental illnesses in Gulf Coast communities was up significantly nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina compared with a survey taken six months after the 2005 storm, a Harvard University health care policy professor said Wednesday.

Ronald Kessler told the Senate Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery the expectation is as time passes after a disaster the adverse psychological effects will diminish. But the percentage of approximately 800 people surveyed in Gulf communities hit by Katrina who reported serious mental illness increased from 10.9 percent six months after the storm to 14 percent as the two-year anniversary of Katrina neared, Kessler said.

In the New Orleans metropolitan area, however, the percentage of serious mental illness remained virtually the same, rising only from 16.5 percent to 16.9 percent, Kessler said. He could not explain why rates had not increased significantly in an area where people suffered some of the worst problems, and therefore the most anxiety, from the hurricane.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who presided over the hearing, said the mental health crisis facing many Gulf Coast communities has emerged as "one of the most critical issues facing the recovery." She offered some sobering statistics: Only 22 of 196 pre-Katrina psychiatrists still practicing in New Orleans; 54 percent of 1,638 children in grades 4-12 surveyed reporting serious mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder; and waiting periods for mental health care increasing from days to months.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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