Katrina's Mental Health Toll

Katrina relief efforts have to this date focused on physical concerns such as food and housing. Mental health concerns are expected to surface in the coming weeks and months.

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Mental health professionals are expecting to see two specific mental health concerns as the result of Hurricane Katrina. Clinical Social Worker Sandra Lopez says the first is acute stress disorder which happens two to four weeks following a traumatic event such as Hurricane Katrina. Lopez says the second concern is post-traumatic stress disorder which can develop months after the event.

Lopez says many times individuals will recognize the symptoms within themselves ... but she says people who are isolated or may be caring for the young or elderly may not realize what is happening to them. Lopez says it's important to remember that all may not be well just because physical concerns have been taken care of.

Greater Houston Mental Health Association is one of the organizations gearing up for meeting the need. Executive Director Betsy Schwartz says following Hurricane Andrew, 25 percent of survivors suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. Following tropical storm alison in Houston, FEMA helped pay for additional mental health professionals. Schwartz says it's still to be determined how much of the Katrina FEMA funding will be dedicated to mental health services.

Schwartz says it's the same concern they have for the existing population when mental health services don't meet the demand.

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