As flood victims struggle with emotional toll, doctors say help is available

As flood victims struggle with emotional toll, doctors say help is available
Published: Sep. 12, 2016 at 10:19 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2016 at 10:34 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In Tangipahoa Parish, there is rebuilding from the recent flooding underway. But amid the painstaking recovery, for many flood victims there are inner feelings to be dealt with.

"I have a lot of faith in God but even with my faith there's moments when it gets overwhelming you wonder how long is this going to take?" said flood victim Sonia Landry who moved to Robert after a catastrophic storm 11 years ago. "This is the second time it's happened for me because I was in St. Bernard Parish for Hurricane Katrina."

Arshile Glaze's trailer barely escaped the spring flooding, but his good fortune ran out in August.

"I know my wife gets depressed about it and upset about it," said Glaze, whose home is uninhabitable right now. "[We're] living with my stepdaughter in Covington. There's no way we can live in here."

Glaze tries to keep his wife's spirits from sinking too low.

"We find different things in the trailer that we had forgot we had and it makes her smile," he said.

On Capitol Hill, some local leaders from flood-stricken areas told members of Congress about the emotional toll resulting from the flood.

"We have suicides, we have mental breakdowns, we have families being torn apart because honestly they don't know how they're going to get back on their feet," said Mayor Jr. Shelton, of Central, Louisiana.

"The most common symptoms are depression, also anxiety and post-traumatic stress," said Dr. Howard Osofsky, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans.

Mental health professionals from LSU Health New Orleans are involved in the effort to help flood victims, as well as state workers, cope with the aftermath of the flooding.

"We have worked with all of the partnering agencies and groups responding to the flooding disaster to develop the screening both for adults and for children to try and help identify and respond to people having the greatest need at this time," Osofsky said.

A home can provide a sense of security and familiarity that people rely on.

"There are many people who are suffering a great deal. They've lost their homes, they're rebuilding," Osofsky said.

Often, there are telltale signs of being overwhelmed.

"If people are having a more difficult time getting going in the morning, if they're not sleeping well, if they're drinking more, if they're more irritable, If one can see that they are exhibiting signs that they are stressed out, it's important to not only reach out to them and be supportive but to let them know that help is available," Osofsky said.

He said it's important to return to some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible, and he suggested that parents should speak to their children about the flooding.

"As much as possible, normalize what you're doing, the same type of routine. Parents have to be aware that their children need to be able to talk about it, and to know that this is a very unlikely event and that parents are keeping them secure and the community is keeping them secure," Osofsky said.

State leaders have said the majority of the flood victims did not have flood insurance. A lot of people said adding to their stress is the suspense of how much assistance they will qualify for under FEMA.

"It breaks your heart, makes you wonder what's going on, because when Katrina came, everybody was there, you know, jump in, give you a hand. This time it's like you're out here by yourself," Glaze said.

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