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Katrina: The Debris // Mental Health

Elizabeth Mahoney, St. Bernard resident and peer counselor.
Brett Anderson
Elizabeth Mahoney, St. Bernard resident and peer counselor.

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed is most visible in pictures of ruined houses and people’s destroyed possessions lying out on city streets. But there’s unseen damage that runs even deeper: the collective emotional trauma experienced by the thousands of people who lived through it.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of New Orleanians who returned to the city says 50 percent of the respondents showed a need for mental health assistance. Another survey, of families who wound up in FEMA trailers, showed high rates of disability due to depression and anxiety.

This week on The Debris, we take a look at how disasters impact mental health in communities.

We talk to City of New Orleans’s health director Charlotte Parent. She explains the city’s effort to improve mental health services in local schools.

We also travel to St. Bernard Parish, where Brett Anderson, a reporter for Times-Picayune, brings us a story of the locals who refused to ignore the wounds Hurricane Katrina left on the psyches of their families and their neighbors.

As the new Coastal Reporter, Jesse Hardman will draw on 15 years of worldwide experience in radio, video and print journalism. As a radio reporter he has reported for NPR, BBC, and CBC, and for such familiar programs as Marketplace, This American Life, Latino USA, and Living on Earth. He served as a daily news reporter and news magazine producer for WBEZ in Chicago.

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