As a dedicated professional in the field of Psychiatry, it has been my mission to educate and advocate for mental health and mental health care in the Greater New Orleans area. I have spent the last 8 years immersing myself in the care and sustainability of my patients. As a graduate of Tulane University, and a lifelong... more
As the heat intensifies and Summer draws near, I am reminded of the Summer of 2005. During these nostalgic moments I am forced to recall the significant events that have required the recovery of an entire city, and charted the path for my life.
Hurricane Katrina was an event so traumatic that its crippling effects still plague the region. Katrina is the catastrophe that opened everyone's eyes to the impacts of mental illness. I've always appreciated the importance of mental health, both personally and professionally; however, following the events of Hurricane Katrina, it was evident that the pain people were feeling was only the tip of the iceberg.
With the rapid rise in depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide and homicide rates, psychiatry appeared the only option for me. After working with my medical school mentor, Dr. Jan Johnson, and interviewing all over the country, I concluded that if there was a place that needed psychiatrists more than ever, it was my home, New Orleans.
The current impact of Hurricane Katrina on my patients' everyday lives still astounds me. Twelve years later, certain words or "triggers" can still bring patients to tears. Others have been terrified to walk in their own homes, remembering being trapped in the attic, or the room where a certain family member may have died. Hurricane Katrina, for many older New Orleanians, wasn't their first world-changing disaster of their lifetime, but the second.
Hurricane Betsy lives in infamy for the older generation of New Orleans residents. Katrina proved to be too much of a reminder of the trauma of Hurricane Betsy. I tell everyone in the field of medicine, "If you can do psychiatry in New Orleans, you can do it anywhere!" Because of the shameful omission of the importance of mental health in the state of LA, thousands of people suffering from mental illness are not receiving the proper medical treatment. They are considered "disposable", and are imprisoned, as the result of any wrong doings occurring during an episode, instead of being diagnosed and treated.
Despite the increased need for mental health services, there has been a sinful and catastrophic cut in funding for hospitalization, medication, and community resources. Although government is supposed to step in when help is needed, in this instance it's decided to run far away.
Despite the magnitude of the problem, this city is blessed with many mental health advocates working to ensure patients healthcare and treatment rights. The psychiatrists in New Orleans are what I consider "blessings". They work tirelessly to better the lives of people most often forgotten or ignored. I am blessed to have been chosen by this profession. I am optimistic that with committed physicians and dedicated training programs, the citizens of New Orleans will continue to receive the best care available, as we continue to advocate on their behalf.