A Makeshift Grave on the Street of New Orleans
Honors a Resident Who Died Shortly After Katrina Struck
Hurricane Katrina Three Years Later::
Some Progress, but We Still Have a Long Way to Go
August 29, 2008
by Kevin Caruso
The images of people on rooftops holding up signs that read “Help Us,” desperate residents screaming for help in front of the Convention Center, residents crowded in the sweltering Superdome, the near-complete destruction of the Mississippi coastline, the rising floodwaters in New Orleans, dead bodies floating in the rancid floodwaters…these images are all indelibly etched in our minds, for they were all a part of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history – Hurricane Katrina.
And then there was the second disaster: The response (or, more precisely, the lack of response) by our federal government – an ignominious, incompetent, and inexcusable non-response to our citizens who needed immediate help (food, water, medicine, medical care, and evacuation!).
We will never forget the countless people who suffered – and the precious people who died – because of the disgraceful response by our government.
Today, August 29, 2008, is the third anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. It is a day to pay our respects to the 1836 people who died, and to pray for those who survived.
Many of those affected will never return to their homes, some because the psychological trauma was too great, others because they fear another devastating hurricane, others because there is a lack of jobs and affordable housing, and others because their homes were destroyed (and not fully insured).
And let me expand a bit on the “insurance” issue. You see, almost all of the houses that were badly damaged or destroyed by Katrina were labeled as “flood damaged” by the insurance companies (which greatly limited their liability). So, homeowners who did not have flood insurance received nothing (or close to nothing) from their insurance companies. They thus had no money to rebuild.
And let us not forget the 37,000 families who are still living in FEMA trailers. Does that large number surprise you? Oh, and what about the formaldehyde in those trailers? (You know, that chemical that is in plywood that emits a god-awful smell.) Well, formaldehyde exists in abundance in those FEMA trailers and has made a lot of Katrina survivors sick. (Perhaps we should call them “toxic trailers” instead of FEMA trailers.)
The FEMA trailers – another FEMA disaster.
And perhaps most disquieting of all is the high rate of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression and PTSD, among survivors – It should surprise no one that many of the survivors who endured this horrible tragedy have issues with mental illness.
But many of the psychologists and psychiatrists who were in the affected regions permanently left after the storm. So there are few mental health professionals available. Additionally, the affected areas have very high poverty rates, so many people in need of help can’t afford treatment.
Bottom line: Many survivors with mental health problems continue to suffer without adequate treatment.
And what about suicide? Not surprisingly, the suicide rate in New Orleans tripled after Hurricane Katrina. But those are the “official” numbers. We will never know how many actual suicides there are because many people have left, so if they die by suicide elsewhere their suicide will not be in the statistics. And what about the suicides that are incorrectly categorized as “accidents” or “accidental overdoses”?
Needless to say, the actual suicide rate because of Katrina is significantly higher than what the “official” rate indicates.
I vividly remember receiving some disturbing communications a couple years ago about a young Katrina survivor who was only 10 years old…he killed himself. God bless him. Wouldn’t anyone in his shoes think about doing the same thing?
And all of the children who survived Katrina may have mental illness issues for the rest of their lives, as well as the adults. And keep in mind that PTSD and other disorders may take many years to manifest, and when they does, many more survivors affected by Katrina may become suicidal.
God bless everyone who was affected by Katrina. They have all endured losses and stresses that most of us can barely comprehend.
For some, things are getting better. They have rebuilt and are moving on with their lives. But for others, they feel little hope. (Just take a look at the Lower 9 th Ward in East New Orleans.)
Only 300,000 residents of the pre-Katrina 450,000 have returned to the Big Easy.
But it should be noted that we are seeing resiliency and vibrancy in many areas as the recovery continues. New Orleans is thriving in many areas. And coastal Mississippi, which looked liked it was razed after Katrina, is bouncing back. Biloxi and Gulfport are recovering, but there is still a long way to go.
So, we are making progress, but we still have a long way to go in the recovery process.
And Suicide.org’s work with Hurricane Katrina survivors will never stop.
Suicide.org was involved immediately when the hurricane hit. Through the grace of God, five prominent Katrina domains were donated to me by a man who was sued by the attorney general of Florida for alleged misuse of the domains. Those domains were KatrinaHelp.com, KatrinaRelief.com, KatrinaReliefFund.com, KatrinaDonations.com, and KatrinaCleanup.com.
So, shortly after Katrina struck, I launched a website on KatrinaHelp.com and placed URL forwards to that site from the other four domains. On KatrinaHelp.com I not only provided information about everything from missing people, finding housing, missing pets, government resources, donating clothing and other items, hotlines, and many other critical things, but I also worked to coordinate as many assistance efforts as possible offline and serve as an information exchange for survivors. And, of course, worked diligently to prevent suicides.
Later, I was able to acquire the biggest Katrina domain of them all, HurricaneKatrina.com, which I used for similar purposes.
KatrinaHelp.com and HurricaneKatrina.com are both permanent Suicide.org websites.
I still have great concern for those who are or will be suicidal because of Katrina, so Suicide.org stands ready 24 hours a day to help any survivors who needs us.
To all of those who survived Hurricane Katrina: God bless you. We support you, we care for you, and we love you. And we will never stop fighting for you.
You will always be in our thoughts and prayers.
Lastly, let us all remember and honor the 1836 people who died because of the hurricane.
Katrina actually made landfall three times, the first time being in Florida on August 25, 2005, which killed 14 people. When it hit the Gulf Coast with its second and third landfalls, 1822 more people died. In New Orleans, we lost 1577. Mississippi, 238. Alabama and Georgia, 2 people each; and Tennessee and Kentucky, 1 person each.
We will never forget the 1836 people who passed away because of Katrina. They are now some of the greatest angels in Heaven. We will always honor them. And we will always love them.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.
I love you.