Post-traumatic stress disorder rates in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina was the most significant natural disaster to strike the United States. Thousands of people were exposed to destruction, human violence and desperate circumstances. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was likely to be a significant medical issue in the aftermath of Katrina.

In a paper to be presented at the 2007 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) Annual Meeting, Professor Lisa D. Mills, MD, Director, Section of Emergency Medicine Ultrasound, Louisiana State University at New Orleans, will show that PTSD was diagnosed in over 38% of the people who came to an interim Emergency Department facility in New Orleans. This is more than ten times higher than the 3.6% prevalence in the general US population. Loss of a loved one and simply staying in New Orleans during the storm were associated with PTSD symptoms.

Commenting on this study, Dr. Peter DeBlieux, MD, Director of Emergency Services at Louisiana State University in New Orleans, states, "The incidence of PTSD in our population post-Katrina reported in this research study is noteworthy and worth following as recovery efforts move forward. The prevalence cited in this study is not alarming to those professionals caring for patients who have been traumatized by the storm and challenged by the recovery efforts."

The magnitude and duration of even a single mental health care diagnosis after this disaster demonstrates the need for long term, coordinated mental health response as part of disaster relief. Interim or temporary mental health response is not adequate for this population. -Elsevier Health Sciences