MENTAL HEALTH OF NEW
ORLEANS YOUTH POSTKATRINA
Danielle K. Wright, MPH, MSW
BACKGROUND
 The floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Katrina damaged 80% of New
Orleans and caused unparalleled community havoc, property damage or loss,
infrastructural ruin, and temporary or permanent residential displacement (Knabb,
Rhome, & Brown, 2006).
 Devastation of this magnitude called for disaster mental health services in the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Osofsky, 2008).
 Disaster mental health services have historically been scarce in inner city areas
that include high percentages of people of low-income, African Americans, single
mothers, and children under the age of 5 (Zakour & Harrell, 2003).
BACKGROUND
 A study by Zakour and Harrell (2003) found a lack of pre-existing
disaster prevention services, as well as disaster relief services for
vulnerable populations residing in areas with high percentages of the
aforementioned socio-demographic criteria.
 The lack of pre-existing preventative services places this
subpopulation as most vulnerable to natural disasters
BACKGROUND
 Typically, vulnerable areas have a lower tax base and experience
difficulty in supporting voluntary services that provide disaster relief in
the form of mental health services (Zakour & Harrell, 2003).
 As a result, services are located in suburban areas where the tax base
is higher (Zakour & Harrell, 2003).
 The organizations that are able to provide relief services to the inner
city struggle with issues of capacity, as it relates to serving vulnerable
populations (Zakour & Harrell, 2003).
BACKGROUND
 New Orleans mirrors the population description of areas lacking such services, considering
that the city had a population of nearly 70% African American pre-Katrina (U.S. Census Bureau,
2000), and just over 60% African American post-Katrina (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008).
 Additionally, the U.S. Census reported 23% of the New Orleans population was living below
the poverty line in 2008 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008).

Single mothers that serve as the head of the household with children younger than 18 years
old account for approximately 14% of the population, and children under the age of 5 account
for approximately 7% of the population as reported by the U.S. Census in 2000 (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2000).
 With these statistics provided by the U.S. Census, it is apparent the population of New
Orleans requires services that will adequately meet the needs of its community.
Y O U T H M E N T A L H E A LT H I S S U E S O N
THE RISE, POST-KATRINA
 In low-income schools affected by poverty, it is estimated that up to 50% of students
have learning and emotional problems that are challenging their success in and out of
school (Franklin et al., 2008, p. 205).
 Debora Morton, Social Work Services Coordinator for the RSD, believes there are, “a
significant number of kids living like this, but it is difficult to quantify because people's
living situations are so fluid” (Maxwell, 2008, p. 4).
 Morton also reported hat during the fall of 2007, social workers within the RSD
referred over 600 students to psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals because
of an increase in students experiencing depression, feelings of hopelessness, anger issues,
and suicidal ideation (Maxwell, 2008, p. 3).
Y O U T H M E N T A L H E A LT H I S S U E S O N
THE RISE, POST-KATRINA
 In a study conducted two years after Hurricane Katrina, 70% of 202 children
screened in the New Orleans area presented signs of Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD).
 These symptoms ranged from mild (33.8%), moderate (24.5%), and severe or
very severe (12.6%) (Weems et al, 2010, p. 52).
 Data from this study indicates the potential for negative, emotional, behavioral,
cognitive, neurodevelopmental, and hormonal outcomes associated with PTSD,
further intensifying the need for child services (Weems et al., 2010, pp. 53-54
AND NEARLY 8 YEARS AFTER
HURRICANE KATRINA…
 In the aftermath of Katrina, poor people and people of color
continue to be disproportionately affected by the impact of mental
health.
• The public mental health system has been dismantled.
• Behavioral health agencies for indigent youth are scarce
• Facilities that meet the needs of our community’s most pervasively
mentally ill youth population are virtually non-existent
INSTITUTE OF WOMEN AND ETHNIC STUDIES YOUTH
EMOTIONAL WELLNESS SCREENER ADMINISTERED
TO 161 YOUTH DURING 2012
3%
Physically forced to have sexual intercourse
62%
Worry/Anxiety
9%
Experiencing a lot of stress
Physical Abuse by Girlfriend/Boyfriend
6%
Suicide Ideation
6%
65%
Domestic/Community Violence
32%
Depression
31%
PTSD
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
W H E R E D O N E W O R L E A N S YO U T H FA L L O N T H E
CONTINUUM OF MENTAL ILLNESS AMONG
ADOLESCENTS ACROSS THE NATION?
 32% screened positive for depression vs. 11% national average for
adolescents
 31% screened positive for PTSD vs. 5% national average for
adolescents
P OV E R T Y I S T H E W O R S T F O R M O F
VIOLENCE –MAHATMA GANDHI
 65% of youth screened positive for exposure to violence
• Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (CDC)
• Childhood ETV associated with Adult outcomes:
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Depression and anxiety disorders
Attempted suicide
Substance abuse
Intimate partner violence
WHAT IS NEEDED TO FOSTER EMOTIONAL
R E S I L I E N C Y I N YO U T H ?
 Developmental assets (adolescents 12-18)
 Support
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•
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Family support
Positive Family Communication
Other Adult Relationships
Caring Neighborhood
Caring School Climate
Parental Involvement in Schooling
 Empowerment
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Community Values in Youth
Youth as Resources
Services to Others
Safety
DEVELOPMENTAL
A S S E T S ( A D O L E S C EN TS AG E S 1 2 - 1 8 )
 Boundaries and Expectations
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Family Boundaries
School Boundaries
Neighborhood Boundaries
Adult Role Models
Positive Peer Influence
High Expectations
 Constructive Use of Time
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Creative Activities
Youth Programs
Religious Community
Time at home
DEVELOPMENTAL
A S S E T S ( A D O L E S C EN TS AG E S 1 2 - 1 8 )
 Commitment to Learning
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Achievement Motivation
School Engagement
Homework
Bonding to School
Reading for Pleasure
 Positive Values
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Caring
Equality and Social Justice
Integrity
Honesty
Responsibility
Restraint
DEVELOPMENTAL
A S S E T S ( A D O L E S C EN TS AG E S 1 2 - 1 8 )
 Social Competencies
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Planning and Decision Making
Interpersonal Competence
Cultural Competence
Resistance Skills
Peaceful Conflict Resolution
 Positive Identity
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Personal Power
Self-Esteem
Sense of Purpose
Positive View of Personal Future
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Mental Health of new orleans youth post