You’d have to be as heartless as Ann Coulter to not find this so very sad and tragic…
Justyn Green, 12, and his brother Jaleel, 8, spent six days at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans with their mother and father — hot, hungry, thirsty, dirty and frightened. They heard gunfire and saw dead people. They got out at one point, only to be forced to return when police in a nearby town turned away thousands of evacuees at gunpoint. When they finally boarded a bus to leave — after enduring a line so long they could barely stand — they thought the horror was over, but it wasn’t. The bus flipped over near Opelousas, and their father was killed.
The boys “didn’t say a word” at the Superdome, said their mother, Joy Green. “They looked so lost and scared. There was no security at all. You were on your own.”
The boys still don’t talk much. In their ranch-style brick home in Algiers, which in the end suffered no storm damage, they sit at the kitchen table and draw pictures. They have been drawing for months, encouraged by a psychiatrist as a way to express themselves and describe their experiences.
As a former social worker I find the numbers on kids presenting with symptoms of depression, PTSD and behavior problems as stated in the WaPo article to be mind boggling. As I watched what occured in NOLA in that first week after Katrina hit, the old social worker in me said there is going to be a lot of people with PTSD, but I never imagined these kinds of numbers. But then I never imagined that almost 10 months later we would see, as the president of the Children’s Health Fund says in the article, that “the trauma has not yet ended.” It is still ongoing with little resemblence of normalcy. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to treat PTSD in such circumstances.
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As the article accurately notes kids can be quite resilient. With family and community support they can deal with unbelievable tragedy. However studies also show that adults are experiencing mental health problems in growing numbers. For example,the Louisiana Survey found 70% of adults in Orleans have felt depressed and one St. Bernard Parish doctor said up to 35% of his patients are on anti-depressants. I find this alarming not only for the health of families but the community.
The WaPo article reports that advocates are calling for emergency services including a request to the “federal government to allocate $100 million to send a force of pediatricians, family doctors, specially trained mental health workers and mobile medical vans to the Gulf Coast.” I hope that happens. It is surely needed. Lacking the element of contagion it may not be clinically accurate to term this an epidemic, as used with the outbreak of a physical disease, yet it seems appropriate in terms of numbers, impact and need to respond with urgency.