The emotional toll of Katrina: "We are so definitely not OK."

| Fri Mar. 17, 2006 4:17 PM EST

Today's LA Times has a disturbing eye-opener on the emotional toll of Hurricane Katrina. About half a million people need some form of mental health service, at a cost to the federal government of more than $200 million.

In New Orleans, even those trained to offer solace break down easily and often: A hospital nurse, a school psychologist, a paramedic, a counselor all lose composure as they talk about Katrina.

"The truth is, we are not OK. We are so definitely not OK," said Burke Beyer, 31, who leads a federally funded team of counselors in New Orleans.

...The half-year mark should be a milestone; many locals expected recovery to be well underway. Instead, their lives are still a mess, their city is still in ruins, and they can see no end to the chaos.

"You try to adjust but you can't," said Walter L. Collins Jr., 30, a truck driver.

The article says that, nationally, calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are up 60 percent since Katrina, and it has these excerpts from a recent survey of second- and third-graders, who were asked to write down their fears:

"I'm worried that I will never see my family again."

"Katrina threw my house somewhere."

"My cat is gone."

"My friends are gone forever."

"What will we do? Where will we go?"

Meanwhile, hurricane season is fast approaching, with the levee system, under repair by the Army Corps of Engineers, "susceptible to flooding with a category two [hurricane]." (At its height, Katrina was a category five.)