Mental Health Crisis Post Katrina May 08, 2008 6:26 PM
Here are links to two
articles on the Post-Katrina mental health crisis. The first article
is a link to a relatively unpublicized study recently completed by the University of South Mississippi in conjunction
with the Mississippi Department of Education and funded by RAND Gulf Policy
Institute. The study examined the records of 17,000 Mississippi students displaced by Katrina
and found persistent mental health problems disproportionately affecting
minorities and low-income people. An excerpt from the news
release on the USM site reads:
Researchers also studied the demographic
characteristics of displaced students, who more often were from minority
racial/ethnic groups than their non-displaced peers. These students were also
more frequently from low-income households than their non-displaced
counterparts, and the differences in poverty between these groups pre-existed
the storm. [Dr. Mike] Ward believes its important to bridge the
gaps between displaced students and their more fortunate counterparts, or else
the state risks leaving an unfortunate educational legacy from Katrina.
Just as gaps often exist by race and poverty, gaps exist here between
groups of students, one of which is disproportionately minority and
poor, he said. And closing those gaps needs to be intensified for
displaced kids, because they were already in difficult circumstances and the
storm compounded that.
The second link is to an article on that touches on vicarious trauma
stress (also known as secondary or indirect trauma) in mental health workers in
New Orleans. I
would add that this kind of trauma stress, which arises from working with
people who have experienced direct trauma, can affect teachers, community
service workers, police, and healthcare workers and has been largely ignored in
the aftermath of Katrina. Neither article addresses the challenge of
coping with the unique symptoms and psychological consequences of ethnic group
trauma, i.e. the emotional impact people experience when they feel
that, above and beyond the natural disaster, they have been victimized
because of their ethnicity/race (racial disparities in the rescue
and recovery and obstacles to returning home).
The confrontation began after 49-year-old Eric Minshew, wearing a gun in his waistband, threatened FEMA workers who were attempting to reclaim the trailer in which he was living, police said. Minshew's brother told police he suffered from a mental illness that has not been treated for years.
The standoff ended Wednesday morning after a protracted ordeal in which police used tear gas and a canine unit to draw Minshew out. Minshew fired several times at SWAT officers, and ultimately was killed, police said. Associated Press reports say paramedics took him to a hospital, where he later died. The coroner confirmed his identity Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the FEMA workers went to the Minshew's home in the 7100 block of Louisville Street, near Robert E. Lee Boulevard, and were initially allowed to inspect the trailer, police said.
As part of the visit, Minshew was being ordered to evacuate the trailer, police said. It is unclear whether the FEMA workers had actually informed Minshew of the eviction date, or if he reacted after realizing that's was their purpose.
Though he didn't actually draw his gun, Minshew placed his hand on it near his waistband while ordering the FEMA workers to leave the trailer, the workers told police.