The Big Easy is waginga new kind of battle—a mental healthemergency. Followingthe devastation ofHurricane Katrina in2006, New Orleansofficials are now facinga rising number of individualswith mentalhealth problems and no way to treatthem.
According to statistics from the coroner'soffice, the suicide rate in the 4months after the hurricane struck was300% greater, compared with prehurricanelevels.
A Centers for Disease Control andPrevention survey taken after the hurricanefound that 26% of respondentsreported that at least one individual intheir family required mental health counseling,but <2% were getting any. Currentdata show that emergency calls involvingindividuals who need psychiatric treatmentare about 15% higher than beforeKatrina.
The city's top officials said that depression,posttraumatic stress disorder, andanxiety are widespread. Patients diagnosedwith schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,and other chronic mental illnessesare suffering because they cannot get thetreatment they need. Throughout NewOrleans, only a few dozen hospital bedsremain available for inpatient psychiatricservices, down from >300 prior to thehurricane.