Ten years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita made landfall in Louisiana, some Louisiana residents may still be experiencing stress or anxiety associated with the storms. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had a devastating impact on the economy and healthcare of Louisiana citizens, including displacements, death of loved ones, and loss to livelihood, homes, and property. These factors all contributed to the need for a targeted response and special programs developed to help victims manage the trauma and stress of the disaster. The Louisiana Department of Health offers a free crisis counseling line to individuals in need at 1-866-310-7977 as well as additional services through local governing entities, private providers and a network of outpatient resources.

"Many of us have a difficult time each year during August as we remember the physical and emotional heartbreak caused by the storms of 2005," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "It's okay to still need someone to talk to or help dealing with those emotions. We want Louisiana residents know that we're here to help, as we have been for the last 10 years."

To meet the emotional and behavioral health needs of residents following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Department implemented special disaster response programs such as LA Spirit, the Louisiana Family Assistance Center and the Youth Suicide Prevention Program. These programs provided essential crisis counseling services, assisted with connecting citizens to displaced loved ones, and increased intervention skills to reduce overall suicide rates in the aftermath of the hurricanes. Ongoing initiatives include development and maintenance of an in-house Methadone Client Data Registry to ensure continuation of essential medication during disaster events, and creation of the state's Permanent Supportive Housing program to assist with the vast loss of housing in the gulf regions.

"Disaster survivors often try to resume their normal lifestyle after the event, with marginal success, suppressing symptoms of trauma, when crisis intervention services are not provided," said Behavioral Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham. "It is imperative for anyone with even acute symptoms of stress or anxiety to seek help immediately."

Resources remain available to those in need. People feeling stress can call the local health care provider network or call the State Behavioral Health Crisis Line 1-866-310-7977 to speak to a counselor.

Some of the signs that a person may need stress management assistance:

  • difficulty communicating thoughts;
  • increased use of drugs/alcohol;
  • tunnel vision/muffled heading;
  • disorientation or confusion;
  • mood swings;
  • crying easily;
  • overwhelming guilt or self-doubt; and/or
  • fear of crowds, strangers or being alone.

Some ways to eliminate or ease stress include:

  • speak with someone about your feelings and emotions;
  • don't hold yourself responsible for the disastrous event;
  • stay active in your daily life patterns, remain healthy both mentally and physically; and
  • use existing support groups of family, friends and religious affiliations.

Individuals experiencing emotional reactions or an increased dependency on drugs or alcohol associated with the event can speak to a counselor by calling 1-866-310-7977 or through the following local governing entities: Capital Area Human Services, Metropolitan Human Services District, South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority, Florida Parishes Human Services Authority, and Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority. For additional resources on disaster related tips and strategies, visit http://dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/204.  

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.