National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Hurricane Katrina: Mental Illness

November 10, 2006

At an annual mental health policy symposium sponsored by the Carter Center in Atlanta and attended by NAMI, rescue workers and survivors of Hurricane Katrina presented a grim picture of the long-term psychological effects of Hurricane Katrina, one year after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

In addition to persons diagnosed with pre-existing mental illnesses, the storm triggered severe anxiety and depression in people who never before had confronted mental health problems.

Involuntary commitments have increased and the number of suicides in Orleans parish in Louisiana has tripled, according to a report published in the WashingtonPost. (opens in a new window)

At the same time, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, (opens in a new window) reports that only two out of 11 hospitals in New Orleans are open and full-functioning; the number of psychiatric hospital beds is less than half of what it used to be; and people either can’t find needed medications or can’t afford them. Overall, the total number of mental health problems has doubled.