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Hurricane Hangover: Katrina Still Haunts

Months after the destructive visit off Hurricane Katrina, the survivors are still facing the after effects of the fury unleashed on the survivors scattered across the nation // , with the destruction so large the loss so dear that the people are now facing problems, and sufferings off such severe psychological distress that the federal government has launched the biggest & a very expensive counseling program in American history.

Sources place an estimated 5 lakh off people are in need off some form of mental health service’s, including the likes of treatment for post-traumatic stress, substance abuse counseling, anti-anxiety medication, Children too are badly affected, and those too young to talk would need art therapy to explain their grief.

According to Seth Hassett, who directs the emergency response unit of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the federal government has allocated $141 million to serve evacuees scattered among at least two dozen states. With negotiations on for a separate grant for the state of Louisiana, amounting to almost $70 million, the estimated cost would well spiral above the funds allocated for the appropriated for the mental health needs of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But cost aside the Katrina response is proving the agency's toughest challenge ever. The people need to be bolstered emotionally, as even those trained to offer solace break down easily and often: A hospital nurse, a school psychologist, a paramedic, a counselor all lose composure as they talk about Katrina.

The devastating effect of Katrina, was anticipated by experts, the storm killed more than 1,300 people, submerged almost 80% of New Orleans, flattened neighborhoods and forced friends and relatives apart. But the devastating effect it has left on the mental health of people is only now emerging. With almost six months after the worst many expected their lives to be back to alm ost normal, but their lives are still a mess, their city is still in ruins, and there seems no end to the chaos.

An estimated 25% to 30% of hurricane survivors in hard-hit cities such as New Orleans suffer clinically significant mental health problems, and another 10% to 20% are need off psychological help, though they aren’t still aren't classified as clinically ill. Nonprofit organizations report an alarming increase in desperate callers with suicidal tendencies, or severely depressed callers. The calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are up an alarming 60% since Katrina.

And if worst seems past the people are becoming vary and apprehensive off the approaching hurricane season, while they are yet to recover even partly from Katrina, the streets still a grim remainder of the her fury & force, some of them still waiting for the Red Cross van’s for food and basic ends.

Due to the vast increase in the number off patients, Professional help is hard to find, there’s scarcity of beds and professionals for the vast majority, so they have to be kept and monitored in Emergency rooms till they have vacancies in psychiatry wards. Even patients who don't need to be admitted to the hospital face long waits, as psychiatrists have their appointments full for four to six months out.

According to Anthony Speier, a psychologist who directs the state's mental health programs for disaster victims, its just as if the storms passed, as the people are yet to have a break to regroup, to rebuild….

To help the residents with the skill off dealing with this, the state has directed its share of federal grants to a program it calls Louisiana Spirit. In New Orleans region, Outreach workers trudge door-to-door offering free counseling, distributing self-help guides and giving plenty of pep talks.

-Face beaded with sweat, Cornelius Bentley Sr, has a confession: He's afraid. He trusts God wouldn't send another hurric ane this way. Still, he can't seem to keep his equilibrium or to shake the fear that he's doing all this work for nothing. Every time it starts to rain, it gets you to feeling funny, He gestured at the wreckage of his Upper 9th Ward neighborhood: Emotionally, something was taken away from us when this happened.

A few blocks down Desire Street, another person is struggling to come terms; a gaunt man is running through an endless list of worries. His family needs surgery, surgery but he can’t track down her doctors, his grandchild's vaccination records had been washed away when her pediatrician's office flooded, not to mention a whole basket off many such more problems too. Outreach worker Richard Kay, 61, tries to calm him with a plan of action, trying to help the man to focus and solve one problem after the other, step by step, make an appointment for the ex-wife, find transportation, slowly yet surely trying to lead him on.

Similar scenes greet workers in Primary schools, at one such a school in Plaquemine’s Parish, student survey shows that the children suffer from anxiety. When asked how they are feeling, kindergarteners had tears dripping down their faces, while a little more bigger children wrote own fears or expressed loss and fear off their family, friends, and houses, about where they could go and what they could do. When councilors used art therapy on kindergarten children, they got work in the form off angry swirls off hurricane, from many off the children. When asked to draw something they lost they drew teddy bears, pets and, above all, houses: Perfect squares with triangular roofs and chimneys puffing smoke and flowers by the front door. When asked to group up and show their drawings several students could not talk. They held up their pictures in silence.

It is for these such reasons that the government has started this massive counseling program spending such vast resources and revenue for rehabilitation and recovery The task of Herculean measure to treat and council patients of such magnitude, an approximate estimate off about 500,000 people who need some mental health service.


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