Monday, November 05, 2007

Mental health on the gulf coast

Feeling well enough to go to work. Guess I should get something accomplished. Blogging – yep, that’s what’s important.

I read an article that didn’t surprise me. It says that there continues to be a mental health crisis in the gulf coast region affected by Hurricane Katrina. It also highlights the lack of mental health providers in the area, especially outside of the metro-New Orleans area. Once again, I feel the need to speak for my people.

People still live in FEAM trailers with no prospect of moving out. There is no affordable housing available. The upper and middle class folks have been able to move on. Those without the means, however, are still stuck in pretty much the same place they were on the afternoon of August 29, 2005. You can’t “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” when you don’t know how. Mental illness is a disease….. just like cancer and diabetes. If you don’t receive treatment, you will die.

Another silent group is the children of the disaster. Is anyone thinking of the future? There are hundreds of “Katrina babies” – those children born 9-12 months after the storm. These children will have no memory of Katrina or its physical aftermath. The problem is these children will be raised by parents who could very well be suffering from the emotional aftermath of the storm. These children will suffer the consequences of their parents’ disease. Sadly, it’s preventable. If the parents receive adequate mental health care, the children will in turn receive the benefits. Healthy parents raise healthy children. And if you think this isn’t your problem, just remember. These children could end up in your communities dating your children someday. Think about it.

Whether or not these people should have had kids in the first place misses the point. The reality is that the children are here, in the flesh, and they need help. A 15 month old child can’t ask Mommy and Daddy to stop fighting. He just learns that yelling and hitting must be how be people relate to one another. Lessons like that are hard to forget.

I know I’m not doing this topic justice. Even so, I thought it was important to share. If you know someone in the mental health field who would like to make a difference, tell them to contact their counterparts on the gulf coast. Volunteer. Find a way to help these people. My people.

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