Floods lead to rise in need for mental health

Meg Farris talks to mental health doctors about the effects of flooding on those affected during August flooding in the region.

NEW ORLEANS - For years there have not been enough mental health programs in Louisiana, but never was the need more apparent then after this summer's historic flooding.

Providers at LSU Health are training crisis counselors to help the thousands who are a long way away from being back to normal.

Psychologist Dr. Scott Meche and Community Services Professional Rodney Anthony, are on the front lines every day helping the many people who turn to the Louisiana Department of Health for help. Those with mental, behavioral or addictive disorders and those with disabilities, needing group homes, are served by these men. And now the devastating August flood is overwhelming the system.

"Just the lobby has been full with individuals waiting to get in for services," explained Dr. Meche of the Capitol Area Human Services District.  

"The biggest part is a lot of group homes flooded, so there's really nowhere for some people to go," said Anthony, who helps those with disabilities find group homes to live in.

Not only do so many people need the mental health caretakers, but the caretakers themselves lost their homes too. Both Dr. Meche and Anthony are rebuilding.

"There were a lot of times it just hit me and I, I was down and I was like, 'How am I just going to start over again," said Anthony, who had just bought his home a little more than a year ago.

Just like after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill, the LSU Health Sciences Center Department of Psychiatry is stepping up to help. A program called 'Hope and Cope' is helping the thousands of state employees under stress and depression while rebuilding.

"We are working with them in stress management, in addressing their concerns, in helping them at this very difficult time," said Dr. Howard Osofsky, Chairman of the LSUHSC Psychiatry Department. 

The help is so they can continue to be there to help the rest of us who feel things will never be normal again. Dr. Meche says Louisiana Spirit teams are also going door to door to offer help. As for him, after losing his home to four feet of water, it's his extended family's support and his gym time that keep him going.

"An event of this nature, catastrophe of this nature, it's too big to go at it alone. You need, you need support," Dr. Meche explained.

Doctors say family conflict and violence, drug and alcohol use, grief, anxiety and depression, skyrocket after a disaster, making things worse.

To get help, call the Capitol Area Human Services District in Baton Rouge at 225-925-1910. And there  is an LSU Health crisis 24 hour hotline at 504-288-6196.

(© 2016 WWL)


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