Mental Health Issues On The Rise In New Orleans

Mental health issues in New Orleans have been on the rise ever since the hurricane hit in 2005. The healthcare systems in New Orleans have been struggling to cope up with the after-effects of Katrina and the ongoing effects of COVID-19, and are working hard to replenish their resources to what they were like prior to the unfortunate incident. So much so, the mental health systems in New Orleans have been termed as “a disaster” by multiple media outlets, political figures and other national mental health organizations. The trauma and stress associated with the hurricane further added to instance of mental health patients, the city of New Orleans was further under pressure to keep up its resources to battle mental health for new and existing patients.

Just how prevalent are mental health issues in New Orleans?

While the trauma associated with the displacement of almost 200,000 people from the city to other states, and the death of almost 1800 individuals wasn’t enough, the city was also tremendously devastated by the natural disaster.

There is no way one can further emphasize the prevalence of mental health disorders in New Orleans when you consider that statistics that almost 60% of children in New Orleans have PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

A study also reveals how children in New Orleans are almost 4.5 times likely to developed mental health issues and shows symptoms of Emotional Disturbance when compared to children from all other states in the United States of America. Emotional Disturbance refers to when children exhibit certain characteristics in their behavior for a long period of time, that affect their ability to perform in schools adversely. It is characterized by withdrawal and aggression, for no apparent reason or cause. 

All of this has been a result of the New Orleans healthcare system not being able to cope up with the influx of patients and the mental healthcare they required post Katrina.

Even today, to add to the decade and a half yeas old trauma, residents of New Orleans have trouble coping with anxiety during COVID-19 and the healthcare authorities are just not able to keep up.

Who is getting affected?

While the people getting affected in New Orleans’ mental health crisis are many, in particular low income families are seeing a very hard time. A study revealed that low income families residing in New Orleans are more prone to developing mental health issues and displaying pertaining symptoms in comparison to families belonging to a higher income bracket. This disparity further insinuates the lack in healthcare in New Orleans and the inability of systems to cope up.

In fact, Louisiana, which houses New Orleans, on a whole accounts for the 47th rank in all states in the country in mental healthcare. Furthermore, it also accounts for the 48th rank in all states in access to mental healthcare. These numbers tell one a lot about the states overall response and ability to deal with its mental health patients and care for them in a justified manner.

When you consider the mental health issues on the rise owing to the COVID-19 lockdown and individuals being limited to their homes with limited social interaction, almost all residents have been impacted some way or the other. Individuals who lost their jobs or saw a cut down in their salaries have suffered with financial stress. Individuals who weren’t able to meet their families or their loved ones suffered emotionally. That is to say, the COVID-19 lockdown has affected all families and all demographics, in some way or the other.

However, the most neglected and overlooked segment of the society in this matter was the LGBTQ+ community. For individuals belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, who have come out to their family and friends, their anxiety levels related to COVID-19 are just as much as any other individual. However, for LGBTQ+ individuals who have come out to their family, and received a negative response from them, the lockdown brings with it a whole lot of issues. Living in a closed spaces with family who doesn’t accept you for what you are, and more than often also despises or taunts you, can affect one’s mental health tremendously.

Individuals who are recovering from substance abuse, or are recovering from an abusive relationship have had added anxiety in the lockdown. Their own stress when coupled with other stressors due to the COVID-19 lockdown, can truly affect one’s mental health drastically. Hence, for mental health authorities in New Orleans need to step up and fix their act.

Numerous activities can be undertaken and measures can be made by healthcare authorities in New Orleans. This may first and foremost include improving healthcare at a micro and macro level, and would require input and initiative by the United States government as well. Other than that, New Orleans needs to invest in conducting thorough research into its patient data, healthcare services, and study what could be done better and needs improvement.

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