The Infinite Mind presents the second in our series of special reports on the psychological impact of Hurricane Katrina. Last week, we looked at conditions “In the Wake of the Storm.” This week, The Infinite Mind continues its coverage with “The Road to Recovery” (airing the week starting September 14th, 2005.)
With thousands dead, tens of thousands homeless and a mass exodus from the Gulf Coast, what can we expect the impact will be over the next few months. What will it take for the nation to heal?
In the Wake of the Storm: A Special Report is a story of the hurricane that is as yet untold. When one million people evacuated the Gulf Coast, they left behind the region's most vulnerable residents, poor people, and people with multiple physical and mental disabilities. They are finally escaping . . . but to what? And of the one million people who fled, experts say we can also expect to see prolonged instancesof post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.
Mental health experts have been warning for years of the consequences that a disaster of the scope of Katrina would pose on the nation's already under-funded and over-stressed mental health system. But much like the warnings about New Orleans fragile levees, these cautions have been disregarded; the mental health infrastructure in much of the country has been gutted by deep cuts in community mental health programs.
Particularly damaged by these budget cuts is the state of Texas, now the new home to hundreds of thousands of refugees suffering from severe trauma reactions as well as a whole range of serious and persistent mental illnesses. How will states cope? Can we expect that mental health disaster relief will receive the same attention and funding as housing, food and other medical needs?