Violent crime wreaks mental havoc on victims
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Every day in New Orleans someone becomes a crime victim. The violence touches every neighborhood and affects all walks of life.
Carjackings, armed robberies, and murders are happening at an alarming rate in New Orleans and sometimes the crimes can have more than just physical ramifications.
“I’ve never been that scared in my entire life and I never thought I would feel that scared,” Madison McLoughlin recalled.
She was carjacked at gunpoint in her Bayou St. John neighborhood before sunrise as she made her way to work. McLoughlin says she had to move to another state to escape the mental torture she felt.
“I just laid in bed but I couldn’t sleep because this scene was just playing in my head over and over and over,” McLoughlin said.
“They cut me off. These three guys with guns jump out of the car. They’re like ‘put the car in park, drop everything, where are the keys, where are the keys?’” she said.
McLoughlin turned to therapy to try to loosen the grip of fear.
“I was broken. I was so broken,” she explained.
For Roy Salgado and his wife, the crime also affected their five-year-old son. They explain that their little boy came face to face with a would-be intruder trying to get into their Gentilly home.
“It kind of just stopped my heart, it was a terrifying, surreal moment,” Amanda Salgado said.
“We’re high up. We’re eight feet up. We had a false sense of security thinking we’d be protected and with an eight-foot fence,” Roy Salgado explains.
The incident shook their sense of security.
“Quite frankly, we don’t sleep as well as we used to. We’re anxious for our children,” Roy Salgado said.
The Salgados know the power that therapy can provide. They’re both mental health counselors.
“I work with people who are the victims of crime. I work with individuals who are the survivors of domestic violence and stalking and human trafficking... all of those horrific things that we know exist. And to experience the same symptoms of apprehension and worry just thinking about what could have happened... all of those are very real symptoms for very real threats,” Roy said.
The irony isn’t lost on Salgado that he is now trying to treat himself while still treating others.
Psychiatrist Dr. Holly MacKenna says it’s a tough position to be in.
“Even just hearing about it in sessions does put that provider at risk. Now obviously, if they’ve dealt with it themselves, that’s added trauma and then being in the position of trying to help someone who is dealing with trauma can just add another layer,” MacKenna explained.
While the Salgados work through their feelings of fear, they’re employing the same techniques on themselves that they use on their clients. They’re also making physical changes.
“We put up an additional gate where we have a lock and we bought iron doors immediately after to put up as an added protection,” Roy said.
However, they’re still considering moving out of their neighborhood.
“Losing that sense of safety and trust in your fellow man can really impact how people view themselves and view their relationships and view their community,” MacKenna said.
MacKenna says she’s seeing more and more people trying to cope with the trauma of violent crime in New Orleans. The Metropolitan Crime Commission says shootings are up 138% from 2019 to April of this year. Carjackings are up 240% and homicides are up 128%. According to MacKenna, many crime victims exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress.
“Difficulties with sleep, difficulties with feeling engaged with other people, feeling hyper-vigilant, kind of always on guard,” MacKenna said.
“It’s incredibly alarming. They’ve done studies on the effect of crime in the community on youth and there’s a direct link to having either direct exposure to crime or even just hearing about it,” MacKenna added.
MacKenna knows many people aren’t lucky enough to be able to afford therapy, so she offers this advice.
“Something that can turn the script on trauma is allowing yourself to work through your own trauma - either by reaching out to others, or journaling, or prayer, or whatever kind of resonates with the person,” MacKenna suggested.
For McLoughlin, she credits the help she received with allowing her to move on.
“I try to not get that deep into it where I’m like ‘I’m going to start crying because this happened to me,’ but it’s like ‘God that was horrifying but look how far I’ve come now,’” McLoughlin says.
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